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    Best Practices! - Entries written by Bryan Young

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    MonMondayNovNovember5th2012 4 Things the First Thanksgiving Can Teach us About Church Websites
    byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    On Thursday, Americans will sit around tables with family and gorge themselves with food. Afterward, they'll try to stave off naps with football and pumpkin pie. And, if they remember, they'll thank God for the many blessings he's provided them over the past year.

    Our history books (Wikipedia) tell us that this event hearkens back to a 1621 feast held by Pilgrims and members of the Wampanoag tribe to celebrate a successful harvest season. Since history can be studied to teach us lessons for the future, I thought it would be fun to see what the first Thanksgiving could teach us about church websites.

    Don't assume newcomers know what they're doing.

    "Squanto, a Patuxet Native American who resided with the Wampanoag tribe, taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn and served as an interpreter for them."
    History
    After landing in Plymouth in 1620, the Pilgrims found their new home unforgiving--less than half of the original survived the first winter. It was only because the local Native Americans welcomed them and showed them how to gather food that they later thrived.

    Church Website Wisdom
    If your visitors are new to your site, they could be easily overwhelmed by confusing navigation and uncertain messaging. Make it clear what your users should do next with clear calls to action.

    Put your own spin on the commonly done--it might go viral.

    "Thanksgiving services were routine in what was to become the Commonwealth of Virginia as early as 1607, with the first permanent settlement of Jamestown, Virginia holding a thanksgiving in 1610 ... harvest festivals [previously] existed in English and Wampanoag tradition alike."
    History
    The first Thanksgiving was not the first time a similar event had taken place. Other harvest feasts in the U.S. were celebrated as far back as the 16th century, but when we think Thanksgiving, we think of the one held in Plymouth.

    Church Website Wisdom
    Just because pastor blogs, sermon podcasts, ministry videos, and other content have been made before, doesn't mean you can't do it better. Be creative when posting content on your church website and watch it spread.

    Being social and sharing are good.

    "Wampanoag leader Massasoit had donated food stores to the fledgling colony during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient ... The celebration lasted three days and featured a feast that included numerous types of waterfowl, wild turkeys and fish procured by the colonists, and five deer brought by the Native Americans."

    History
    The Pilgrims weren't alone when they celebrated Thanksgiving. They were joined by 90 Native Americans, contributing food and reveling in the colony's success.

    Church Website Wisdom
    Engaging your users through social media, by re-posting content from your website on Facebook or linking to it from Twitter, is an effective way to get people to your website. Getting people to interact with or share your content with others also can positively influence your search rankings.

    Focus on the purpose.

    "Thus they found the Lord to be with them in all their ways, and to bless their outgoings and incomings, for which let His holy name have the praise forever, to all posterity." - William Bradford
    History
    Although the Pilgrims had achieved some success in hunting, harvesting crops, and reviving a dying colony the Pilgrims did not forget the true source of their blessings--God and the Native Americans whom God sent.

    Church Website Wisdom
    Never forget why your website exists. It is for your users to find information about you and your ministry, and ultimately to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. This understanding will drive everything else you do on your website.

    Originally published on Nov. 21, 2011



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    MonMondayOctOctober22nd2012 How Networked is Your Church or Ministry? [SOCIAL MEDIA]
    byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    In her new book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, Beth Kanter, introduces a concept to help non-profits understand, transition, and measure the impact of adopting a "network mindset." Named one of the most influential women in technology by Fast Company and one of the BusinessWeek’s “Voices of Innovation for Social Media,” Kanter calls this idea "Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly."


    What is a "Networked" Church or Ministry?


    According to Kanter, a networked mindset is "a new style of leadership that works through active participation, openness, decentralized decision-making, and collective action." This type of organizational paradigm requires leaders to use all available networks to communicate. Essential in this idea is using analytics to measure success and to make key decisions.

    For churches, this means increased transparency by pastors and leaders. Also, communication through digital networks like social media, website content, videos, e-newsletters, and blogs, in addition to traditional print (i.e. bulletins, posters, direct mail) and in-service media (pulpit announcements, pre- and post-service slides). And the use of web analytics and constituent feedback to improve upon communication.

    Read more about the Networked Mindset on Hubspot >>


    The Stages of Becoming More Networked


    THE CRAWL STAGE

    "Crawlers are not using social media consistently or incorporating measurement processes; they also lack a robust communications strategy."

    You have a blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account, but you don't update regularly or for a consistent purpose. People may be visiting your website through social media or other avenues, but you don't know how many or what strategies have been successful.

    How to proceed to the next stage:

    • Talk about communication challenges within your church or organization.
    • Look to your peers--what are they doing that you can copy?
    • Develop a communications strategy -- which avenues of communication to use, and what you should communicate
    • Create a social media policy -- its purpose, what you will post and how often, and how you will measure success

    THE WALK STAGE

    "Nonprofits in this stage are using several social media channels consistently, but may not be strategic or fully embracing best practices -- maybe they don’t engage with users, or they only share content and messaging produced by their own organization."

    You have active social media accounts and blogs, but you haven't yet had time or resources to research and utilize the latest trends in engagement. You post regular updates, but haven't yet learned to evaluate your success with analytics and other metrics and use that data to adjust your strategy.

    How to move to the next stage:

    • Start a communications campaign and collect data to help leadership understand the value and benefits of being networked
    • Become an expert in one or two social media tools
    • Try new communications techniques and measure their success
    • Build capacity internally by better integrating social media into existing jobs

    THE RUN STAGE

    "Runners use more than two social media channels as part of an integrated strategy, identifying key result areas and metrics that drive everything they do."

    You actively engage people on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, and other social media networks--gaining comments, "likes," shares, and other interactions. You can also show how your social media activity translates into real-life interactions, including event attendance, volunteering, and donations. You watch analytics and use data to influence future communication methods.

    How to move to the next stage:

    • Staff a position dedicated to watching emerging technology and enhancing your communication strategy (i.e. Community Manager, Social Media Manager, Digital Media Specialist)
    • Involve your whole organization in campaign brainstorming and social media activity
    • Use editorial calendars to manage content creation
    • Dedicate time and energy to tracking and collecting analytics and utilize this data to adjust your communication strategy on the fly

    THE FLY STAGE

    "These organizations have institutionalized everything in the running stage. Flyers embrace failure and success alike, and learn from both."

    Your social media and other communication networks are used to promote ideas and cause social change. You try new strategies, technologies, and techniques constantly, without fear of failing, while unceasingly measuring success through sophisticated tools and processes. Everyone looks to you to set future trends and discover new communication strategies.


    How Networked are You?


    Where is your church or ministry in the network mindset process? What steps do you plan on taking to move forward?

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    MonMondayOctOctober8th2012 9 Questions to Ask Your Content Before You Publish [CHECKLIST]
    byBryan Young Tagged Content 0 comments Add comment

    Is your content "all it can be"? Before your content goes live, put it through Content Boot Camp, and ask yourself these nine questions.

    1. Does this help me achieve my content goals?

    You wouldn't map a journey before you knew where you were going. So, before you start adding website content, it's important to understand what you're trying to accomplish. Developing content goals and mapping them to your church and organization's overall goals will give your content focus and purpose.

    2. Does my headline convince users to read?

    Headlines must entice potential readers from your home page, landing pages, social media, and main blog pages with a promise of insight that's irresistible. Eighty-percent of people will read your headlines, but only 20% will read the rest of your content. So a strong content title is the key to strong content.

    3. Is this content as search engine friendly as it can be?

    Including common search keywords and phrases is vital for search engines to find your content. For example, if you're a church in the Chicagoland area, you might want to include "Chicagoland church" in as much of your content as possible (without making your writing awkward) to help seekers find your content in search results.

    4. Did I link to other content?

    Cross-linking to pages and articles on your website can help users navigate to other information easily, and gives them a gateway to all the other great content they might not otherwise know exists. Also, it shows search engines that your website is filled with useful content, gaining you credibility in their eyes.

    5. Does it use my voice?

    Your writing voice is not unlike your speaking voice in that it can greatly effect how another person feels and views you--if you are welcoming, friendly, personable, interesting ... or the opposite. So know your audience, and speak directly to them.

    6. Did I check for grammar and spelling errors?

    Don't just rely on Spellchecker to be your editor. Find one among your staff. Another pair of eyes will often catch things the writer overlooked.

    7. Is this content readable?

    You can make content easier to read and scan by utilizing sub-headlines, bullet points, boldface, and other text styles. "Chunk" your content into short paragraphs and sentences to make it less initially overwhelming.

    8. Did I include an image?

    Adding a visual dimension to your content will help your readers better connect with and digest what you're saying. People love images, especially photographs of other people.

    9. Is there a call to action?

    It's not enough just to write an article or post a blog entry--the whole purpose of church websites is that they are catalysts for action, inspiring readers to take the next step and be included in what you are doing. Include a specific call to action in each piece of website content to get your website visitors involved.

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    MonMondayOctOctober1st2012 Night and Weekend Facebook Posts Get More Interaction [STUDY]
    byBryan Young Tagged Social Media 0 comments Add comment

    A new study by Buddy Media reveals some surprising data on how companies and organizations can better engage their Facebook audience. In many cases, the study shows that Facebook page administrators are falling short of best practices to get user likes, comments, and shares. Read the findings below and see if your church or ministry Facebook page is maximizing its engagement potential.


    POST AT NIGHT AND ON WEEKENDS


    The study found that posts made between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. received 14% more interaction than those posted during the workday and early evening (7 a.m.-8 p.m.). And, for non-profit organizations, post interaction is also 14% higher on Saturdays and Sundays than on weekdays

    Considering only 18% of posts are currently updated during prime hours, and weekends are the least utilized posting days, these times are wide open for you to create engaging content.


    POST ONLY ONCE OR TWICE PER DAY, LESS THAN 7 TIMES PER WEEK


    Organizations who limited posting to one or two per day saw 19% higher interaction. Also, pages that posted more than seven times per week saw their interaction rates drop 25% versus those who held their statuses in check.


    LIMIT YOUR POSTS TO 80 CHARACTERS OR LESS


    "Brevity is the soul of wit," said Shakespeare ... and your Facebook fans. Posts with fewer than 80 characters see a 23% higher rate of interaction. Unfortunately, the study found that 75% of current posts breach this limit.


    POST PHOTOS AND TEXT, NOT VIDEOS AND LINKS


    • Posts with photos had a 39% higher than average interaction rate
    • Text-only posts gained 12% higher than average interaction
    • Posts with videos and links fell below average

    WANT LIKES OR COMMENTS? ASK FOR THEM.


    Overwhelmingly, this study finds that including clear calls to action in your posts drives more interaction. But it matters which words and phrases you use (see chart). Make sure you know what you want users to do with each post, then tailor your call to action accordingly.

    Posts with questions gain 92% more comments, and putting your question at the end of you post see twice as many comments than ones at the beginning. If you're willing to try something different, fill in the blank posts ("My favorite color is ______.") see an astonishing four times as many comments than those that do not! 


    HOW ARE YOU DOING?


    Do these new findings make you change the way you think about Facebook posts? Have you been using best practices? Do you plan to make any strategic changes? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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    MonMondaySepSeptember24th2012 4 Megachurch Trends and How They Impact Church Websites
    byBryan Young Tagged Content 0 comments Add comment

    Online news magazine, The Christian Post, recently released a list of the latest trends for megachurches in America. Many of these trends affect the way these megachurches communicate—to potential attendees, to its own congregation, to its leaders, to the Lost—and ultimately what they need their church websites to do for them.

    Even if your church is not "mega", there are still lessons to be learned from these trends. Below are four megachurch trends and how they impact church websites (both for megachurches and non-megachurches).


    More Megachurches, More Attendees


    It should be no surprise that the number of megachurches has exploded in recent years (see chart). So has the consolidation of church attendance. According the The Christian Post, 10% of church goers attend a megachurch, even though they comprise less than one-half of one percent of all churches in America.

    IMPACT ON WEBSITES

    If you're a Megachurch
    You tend to have more resources at your disposal—money, people, time. You should utilize these resources to produce amazing content. Like thought-provoking blog articles, powerful videos, and photos depicting church events. Your website should be a window to what's going on at your church. For non-members, who may be potential attendees, and members, who may be encouraged to participate in new ways.

    If you're not a Megachurch
    You tend to have less resources at your disposal—money, people, time. So you should concentrate on creating relevant content that you can sustain. This may simply be a pastor's blog or notes on this week's sermon or a up-to-date events calendar. Play to your strengths, do less, and do it well.


    More Youthful Church Leaders


    Churches are not as attached to denominations or the "pay your dues" mentality as they used to be, allowing for younger pastors to have more opportunities at leading their own church. There are 25 megachurch pastors between 30-37 years old, and many megachurches have young staff members in various ministries.

    IMPACT ON WEBSITES

    If you're a Megachurch
    Your church probably has many young, tech savvy attendees, taking notes on their iPads or using Bible apps during sermons. You should get your pastor to engage your congregation through social media and his own, regularly updated blog. Maybe even try incorporating real-time social media interaction (like Instagram or Twitter) or texting during your services.

    If you're not a Megachurch
    If your church doesn't have many young, tech savvy attendees, you probably shouldn't devote resources to extensive social media engagement. Concentrate on keeping your website up-to-date with useful content.


    More Multi-Venue, Multi-Campus Churches


    Many megachurches meet in more than just one location. Even though they may share one vision, lead pastor, and central staff, these churches have multiple campuses (or venues), each with it's own unique congregation and characteristics.

    IMPACT ON WEBSITES

    If you're a Megachurch
    You'll want to represent all your campuses on your website. Each one probably has its own demographics (young and urban vs. suburban families) and unique qualities—present these clearly to your potential visitors. Use calendars and ministry sections to highlight what's going on at each campus and speak directly to each audience.

    If you're not a Megachurch
    Good news, you only have to concentrate on one location. Make sure future visitors know where that is. Create a page that spells out where you are, how to get there, and ways to contact you.


    More Interest in Groups


    The Christian Post states, "As the church grows larger, it must intentionally move smaller as well." This can be seen in the popularity of small groups (life groups, home groups, Sunday School, etc.) as a way of personally connecting with a large congregation.

    IMPACT ON WEBSITES

    If you're a Megachurch
    Your website can also be a place for sharing information to small groups. Curriculum, upcoming events, open group times and locations, these all can be housed on your website or shared through e-newsletters.

    If you're not a Megachurch
    Even though you aren't considered a megachurch, you may still utilize smaller groups for deeper congregational learning and growth. You may choose to use your church website to post teaching materials, schedules, and meeting times, as well, but only do so if you can keep it updated. Nothing looks more depressing on a church website than outdated content.

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    MonMondaySepSeptember17th2012 Using Content Strategy to Foster Collaboration
    byBryan Young Tagged Content 0 comments Add comment

    Churches are made up of many ministries with needs as diverse as the people they serve—and these needs extend to the church website. So how can these different ministries, with different needs, expect to work together on website content development? Content Strategy can go a long way in fostering an environment for collaboration. Here are three steps that can help you establish this collaborative environment.


    Content Strategy: What Are Your Content Goals?


    The process of determining your website's content goals can be collaborative in itself. Getting your ministry stakeholders working together early will ensure that your church website meets everyone's needs. Additionally, it will begin a foundation for future web collaboration.

    Get your ministries' representatives together and ask some questions to help decide these goals.

    • What do you want website visitors know about your ministry?
    • What actions do you want them to take after visiting your website?
    • What will make web visitors keep coming back?

    Some ministries within your church may answer these questions differently and have different content goals. Others may find common ground. Whatever the case, everyone will appreciate having their voice heard and will be open to future collaborative projects.


    Tactics: How Will You Achieve Your Goals?


    Now that you have established your content goals, you must decide how you'll accomplish them. Together, choose which strategies you'll employ to make your content successful.

    • How will you present your ministries to your users—audience-focused navigation and/or a landing page list [like this one]?
    • What types of media will you use to show your ministry at work—blogs, videos, news articles?
    • How will your home page introduce your ministries—links, banners, ads?

    Resources: Can You Share or Combine?


    Setting goals and determining tactics are great steps. But how will this content get created? Who will produce and maintain it? A blog is no use if it's no one is able to keep it updated. A monthly video series is unrealistic if staff or volunteers are not in supply.

    To help you create sustainable content, you'll need to assess your resources. Using those same web stakeholders, build a list of all possible content sources between you.

    People
    Does Children's Ministry have a volunteer who works as a videographer? See if he's interested in creating videos for other ministries.

    Skills and Gifts
    Is your Women's Ministry leader passionate about writing? Maybe she can help your men's pastor create a blog and give him ideas for entries.

    Existing Content/Workflows
    Do your ministries create announcements for your weekly bulletin? Repurpose this content for your website.

    Anytime your ministries can share resources or work together, good things can happen—in ministry and with web content.


    How do You Foster Collaboration?


    Have you joined forces with other ministries to launch an exciting project? Hold a special service? Create awesome web content? Leave your stories in the comments.

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    MonMondayAugAugust6th2012 Half of Churches Never Blog: Should You? [STUDY]

    In a recent survey by Buzzplant, a Christian digital advertising agency, they found that around half of the churches they contacted never blog.

    Some other interesting findings:

    • 51% of churches said that a least one of their senior staff regularly blogs or updates social media.
    • 67% of churches that blog update 1-2 times per week.
    • 33% of churches that blog update 3+ times per week.

    View the full infographic on churches and social media by Buzzplant.


    Should Your Church Blog?


    With so many church marketing and tech experts (including us) saying churches should blog, who is in the right? Should you spend precious time and energy posting entries on a blog? Here are five reasons your church should have and regularly update a blog.

    1. Blogs connect with a desirable audience.
    The type of person who read blogs regularly are more web saavy, have passion and initiative, and are seeking the next level in engagement. You want to connect with these people.

    2. Blogs provide fresh content.
    New content means a reason for people to keep coming back to your website.

    3. Blogs are conversational.
    Blogs allow for comments which allows your visitors to interact with you and share their voice.

    4. Blogs are a gateway to your website's other content.
    Link to other entries, feature stories, or upcoming events.

    5. Search engines love blogs.
    Websites with constantly updating content get more "street cred" from search engines.

    Learn more about the benefits of blogging >>


    Do You Blog?


    If you already regularly post entries on a blog, what fruits have you seen from you efforts? Leave your stories in the comments.

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    MonMondayJulJuly30th2012 Summer Reading List for People Who Make Church Websites

    Summer is winding down, but it's not too late to add a few books to your reading list. If you build, maintain, or just plain love church websites, crack open these three books while you're on the beach, and use your vacation to fill up your inspiration-o-meter.


    Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

    Subtitled "A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability," Krug sheds light on how website visitors think (or don't think) and how you can help them navigate your site without getting lost or frustrated. This book is one of our favorites and has inspired us to re-think how our websites, home pages, and online forms should look and work.


    The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

    In this page-turner, Duhigg helps explain why people "Do What we Do In Life and in Business" by looking at the process of habit formulation. By understanding this process, marketers and website builders have learned how get people to buy their products and design intuitive navigation for their websites. If you've ever wanted to break a bad habit, start a new one, or help others do the same, this book is fascinating.


     

    Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content
    by Colleen Jones

    We've been reading Jones's excellent content-focus blog, Content Science, for some time now, so we've added her latest book to our summer reading list. In this book, Jones explains "the key principles of influence and how to apply them to web content ... that attracts people and engages them for the long haul." We can't wait to dig into this one.


    What About Your Reading List?

    What are your favorite books from this summer? Leave them in the comments.

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    MonMondayJulJuly16th2012 5 Steps to Crafting an "I'm New" Page on Your Church Website
    byBryan Young Tagged Content 0 comments Add comment

    “Faithful, gospel-shaped, loving” -- @ScotMcknight responding to "What's the most important thing a website should say about its church?"

    Many churches have reception areas for guests. They give newcomers gift bags or packets of information. Your church website should provide a section for potential new visitors, too. But instead of new Bibles and gospel tracts, your I'm New page should focus on converting your digital visitor into a physical one. Here are five steps to creating a page directed at possible guests.




    1. Welcome Your Guest


    "@iMinistries I have seen it on other church websites also - the personal video from the pastor is great. Other staffers would be nice too." -- Cindy Brown ‏@hiyacynthia responding to "What makes a great I'm New page?"

    The process of deciding on visiting a church (or making a new church your home) can largely be based on how it makes you feel. Your visitors should feel welcome and comfortable as they start discovering you on your website, long before they set foot in your building.

    A personal greeting from your senior pastor or other staff lets your new guests know you care about them. Videos are more impactful than written greetings.


    2. Introduce Yourself


    What do you believe? What do you value? What is your mission? Potential guests will want to know if your thinking aligns with theirs before they visit. Summarize your main values clearly and without compromise (one example is Harvest Bible Chapel's Four Pillars), and link to more detailed explanations of your doctrine and history to give users a picture of who you are.

    You'll also want to let people know when and where your services take place. Service times, a location address, map, and directions should be front-and-center so a user can visit you in person. A general explanation or brief list of your ministries can also be beneficial to guests.


    3. Set Expectations


    In a recent blog post, LifeWay CEO and former church consultant Tom Ranier explained what visitors look for the first time they visit a new church. Not surprisingly, most of these things are related to not knowing what to expect from a typical weekend service experience. Set the stage for your potential visitors by explaining what a Sunday at your church looks like.

    Start by answering these questions:

    • Where do I park? Are there special areas for guests, the disabled, elderly, or expectant mothers?
    • What do I do with my kids?
    • How should I dress?
    • Is worship contemporary or traditional?
    • Where should I sit in the worship center?

    4. Don't Over-Do It: Link to Your Church Website's Useful Information


    I’d include all the next steps kinds of stuff (services, contact info, links to beliefs, learn more, etc.) -- @ITCDave

    Don't overwhelm your users by trying to explain everything about your church on one page. Group your information in clearly defined sections. Summarize the most important information, then link to their respective pages for those who are interested in learning more. Not all users have the same priorities or needs, so let them select what they care to investigate further.


    5. Allow for Inquiries


    It's not always possible to preemptively address every question a visitor may have. And some people would rather talk to a real person than read text on a website. Your phone number and e-mail address should be visible so that anyone can easily contact you.


    Did we miss anything?


    What do you think makes a useful "I'm New" page? Leave your responses in the comments.

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    Photo by NCinDC - http://www.flickr.com/photos/ncindc/6919856526/
    MonMondayJulJuly2nd2012 Seth Godin's Advice For Creating Church Website Content
    byBryan Young Tagged Content 0 comments Add comment

    Marketing guru and author Seth Godin has tons of insight into leadership, spreading ideas, and innovation. So what does he have to say about your church website content?


    Know Your Audience ... And Direct Your Content to Them


    In modern publishing, most authors pitch and write books to an audience of publishers and booksellers, not to the readers who consume them. Frustrated by this system, Godin started The Domino Project to give the power back to readers. He now helps produce books that talk about things readers are interested in.

    In the same way, your church website content should meet your visitors' needs, and without much effort on their part.

    Start with these three areas:

    1. Home Page: Prominently display links to the most important visitor information (Location, Directions, Contact, Beliefs).
    2. Navigation: Base your menu structure on how a visitor would think, not how your ministry is organized.
    3. User Testing and Analytics: Find out what people want and give it to them and in formats they prefer.

    Make Your Content Interactive and Sharable


    On his popular, ground-breaking blog, Godin rarely writes novel-length entries. Instead, he shares an idea in a few short paragraphs, often ending with a thought-provoking question to his readers. Many people pass along his blog entries to their friends or co-workers through Facebook and Twitter, extending his idea and adding their own to it.

    On your church website, your content should also inspire others to spread your message. Videos can be posted to Facebook. Important news can be tweeted. Controversial blog entries can be commented on and forwarded in e-mails. Creating content people want to talk about and respond to can make your ministry visible to people beyond your usual audience scope.


    What do you think?


    What content have you created that has expanded your reach? What kinds of content can you create in the future that will help you achieve this goal?

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    MonMondayJunJune25th2012 Why Responsive Church Websites? Google and Bing Prefer Them
    byBryan Young Tagged Church Design 0 comments Add comment

    Riddle:
    I am one of the most important visitors to your church website. I visit your website regularly, and I read every word each time. You must create all content with me in mind, even though I'll never interact with you. In fact, I'm not even a person. Who am I?

    Answer:
    Search engine robot crawlers.

    Getting search engine crawlers to like your content is key to any website that wants to be found in search results. So it's important to know that the two biggest search engines, Google and Bing, have recently spoken in favor of responsive web design over mobile-version websites. Here are the three biggest reasons why you should agree with them.


    1. Responsive Websites Get Better Search Rankings


    When you redirect mobile users to a different website (with a different URL), you do the same to search engine crawlers. They then index your mobile website as separate from your desktop site, splitting up your search engine currency: optimized content and web traffic credentials. Mobile websites also rarely have any inbound links--a big influence on search engines.

    A responsive website only uses one URL, does not split up visitors or inbound links, and is more likely to get ranked higher in search results.

    Look at the chart below. Website A uses two URLs, one for desktop visitors and one for mobile. Website B utilizes responsive web design. You can see how search engines would split up Website A's visitors and links into two separate, less appealing websites. Website B doesn't face those issues.

    Website A

    Website B
     Desktop Website
      (website.com)
      6,000 pageviews
      3,000 unique visitors
      700 inbound links
      search rank: 5
     Mobile Website
      (m.website.com)
      2,000 pageviews
      1,000 unique visitors
      0 inbound links
      search rank: 10

    Responsive Website
    (website.com)
    8,000 pageviews
    4,000 unique visitors
    700 inbound links
    search rank: 2


    2. Responsive Websites Use Less Bandwidth


    If you have two websites (one for desktop, one for mobile), you double the amount of web crawler traffic to your web servers. These crawlers consume bandwidth, which means your human visitors could experience sluggish performance and increased load times. While robots may not mind a few seconds of waiting, we all know real people certainly do and will likely respond by leaving your website.


    3. Responsive Websites Take Less Work


    When you decide to use a separate website for mobile visitors, you are volunteering to double your workload. Mobile websites have to be maintained just like desktop sites. Do you have time to build (initially) and develop content (continually) for two websites?


    The Good News


    Many of iMinistries' free church website templates are built to be responsive to any device. Check out our new free templates or start a free trial today to see how we can solve your church website dilemmas.

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    MonMondayJunJune18th2012 Create Your Own Church Social Media Infographics With Visual.ly
    byBryan Young Tagged Social Media 0 comments Add comment

    More information is available now then ever before. Because more information means decreased attention spans, infographics are becoming the go-to format for presenting information in a way that people can process it quickly.

    The new online application Visual.ly allows you to plug in your Facebook or Twitter account and create your own infographics in a few easy steps. In the future, Visual.ly hopes to add more ways create infographics from custom data, like studies and surveys, so learning how to use it now could be valuable.

    Visual.ly also acts as a place to share your own infographic creations or view uploaded ones from other designers.


    How to Create an Infographic with Visual.ly


    1. Sign Up for an Account

    The account is free, and you can use it to upload your created infographics.

    2. Select a Topic Template

    Visual.ly has a handful of designed templates in which to plug in your social media data.

    • Facebook Activity: Enter your church Facebook account to visually display your recent activity.
    • Twitter Showdown: Plug in your Twitter account and another to compare the two.
    • Life of a Hashtag: Use a hashtag for a recent Twitter campaign? Show its usage, power users, and other information. 

    3. Connect Your Social Media

    Log into your social media account and allow Visual.ly to access your basic information. Then select which page you want to pull information from or which hashtag you want to track. They'll do all the work for you.

    4. Select a Theme

    Each topic has different formats of displaying the data. Select the one you like.

    5. Create and Share Your Infographic

    At the bottom of the created infographic, Visual.ly gives you the option to share it across your social media or download for your website or other uses.

    Sample Visual.ly Infographic

    Here's an infographic we whipped up about our Facebook page activity. What infographics do you plan on making?


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    MonMondayJunJune11th2012 Facebook is for Stories; Your Church Website is for Everything Else [STUDY]
    byBryan Young Tagged Social Media 0 comments Add comment

    Since social media has established an increasing presence in the world of communication, a great temptation for organizations is to move all online information sharing to Facebook. But studies have shown that social media is secondary to users who want to learn about non-profits, churches, or ministries—an organization's website is still its primary source of information.

    Using people who had recent, regular personal interaction with non-profits, website usability expert Jakob Nielsen observed their interactions with non-profit websites and their Facebook properties and found clear expectations for each.


    What People "Like" on Facebook


    Stories of People Impacted by Your Ministry

    The Nielsen study shows that Facebook visitors are most interested in seeing examples of the lives changed by your ministry. They expect social media to "showcase stories about real people who have been involved with the organization." Videos and feature story teases (that link back to your website for the full story) are effective ways to highlight your ministry at work.

    Conversations With Your Followers

    Past Nielsen studies have concluded that Web users associate social media with private discussions. The goal of the content you post on Facebook should be to spark deeper conversations and interactions with those who are connected to your ministry. Creating sharable content can extend the conversation to people outside your immediate audience. 

    Links to Your Website

    Facebook content can cause considerable buzz, but keep in mind that social media is a secondary communication tool. Every organization's Facebook presence should include clear links to your website—your primary online information hub—for users who want to learn more about or become involved in your church or ministry.


    What People Don't "Like" on Facebook


    Donation Asks

    Nielsen's study found that people don't use Facebook to make donations to non-profits. In fact, "when we asked users to do this in the study, they were annoyed by non-profits that tried to push products or donations, or tried to get them to sign up for other things, like e-mail newsletters." Remember that you walk a fine line when requesting financial support. Don't risk ask-fatigue by posting giving appeals on Facebook.

    Your Mission or Goals

    As stated above, users are more interested in the fruits of your church or ministry. They don't want to hear what you want to be, they want to see what you've done. Your mission and beliefs can be detailed on your church website for those who want to learn more, but first gain their interest by showing your ministry's real-life impact.

    Content That's Not Supported by Your Website

    Every post on your Facebook page should coincide with content on your website. Videos and stories should link back to pages on your website with more information. Event promotion posts should jump to pages with registration opportunities. Each piece of communication should give the user a chance to learn more about you and how they can get connected.

    These study findings are another reminder of how much attention you should focus on your church website content. Even though Facebook's audience is large and accessible, your church website is still where people go first to learn more about you. How does this change your Web strategy? Leave your comments below.

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    MonMondayMayMay28th2012 Real-Time Engagement: Using Instagram for Your Church or Ministry
    byBryan Young Tagged Social Media Technology 0 comments Add comment

    Back in April, Facebook made waves by purchasing the photo sharing app Instagram for a whopping $1 billion. With over 30 million users on iPhone alone (they've since launched an Android version of the app), the Instagram+Facebook partnership commands a substantial online audience.

    So how can this audience be leveraged to engage those who care about your church or ministry? Is it worth spending time and resources on yet another online trend? What makes sharing photos through Instagram different or better than doing the same on Facebook?


    WHY USE INSTAGRAM?


    1. IT'S VISUAL
    People love images. They tell a story—your story—through the emotions they convey. A smiling child at summer camp. An exploding confetti cannon at Easter. A joyful new believer, post baptism. Photos have the ability to record the spirit of a moment better than words ever can.

    2. IT'S INSTANT
    Online content's shelf life is measured in seconds (and continues to dwindle by the day as people grow more "connected"), so posting pictures of events the day after they occur may already be considered outdated.

    Instagram allows you to engage people in real time, as you experience it. It only takes a few seconds to snap a photo with your phone, apply a filter, and share with your followers.

    3. IT'S SHARABLE
    The app lets you pair social media accounts to your feed so you can automatically display your Instagram photos via your Facebook and Twitter accounts. People can then easily and quickly share it with their friends through these avenues. Using hashtags (like #goodfriday or #summercamp) also allow for trending and findability in various feeds.

    4. IT'S PERSONAL
    Most mobile photos are candid and authentic-feeling. They bring an aura of intimacy not usually communicated through other photos. You can take advantage of this by giving people an inside look into your special events, making them feel like they have a deeper level of participation. A photo from an event speaker looking out into the audience may garner more impact than a generic picture of the speaker from an audience member.


    HOW DO I USE INSTAGRAM?


    CHECK IT OUT
    Play around on your personal account to learn the ins and outs. Follow your friends and make a note of what makes you go "ahhh!" Try out each photo filter and different lighting and composition techniques.

    PLAN IT OUT
    Instragram's strengths lie in presenting instant, candid, personal moments—utilize that strength in your strategy for this medium.

    LAUNCH IT OUT
    Start an account for your church or ministry and sync your social media accounts. Introduce your account across your communication platforms to gain followers.

    DELEGATE IT OUT
    Find some people in your ministry already using Instagram effectively (especially those who have deeper behind the scenes access, like pastors or worship leaders). Give them your account login information and draft them into service with a few assignments.

    SEND IT OUT
    Start taking compelling photos and share them on your accounts. Experiment to see what gains more attention and shares. Rinse and repeat.


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    MonMondayMayMay7th2012 Free Stock Photos and Banners for Church Websites [RESOURCE]
    byBryan Young Tagged Church Design 0 comments Add comment

    We understand that church website administrators are usually understaffed and overworked. We've been there. That's why we're always on the lookout for tools and resources to make your job -- maintaining a great-looking, useful church website -- easier and more enjoyable.


    Recently, I ran into the website, CreationSwap. This great resources offers churches free and stock graphics and photos for download and use on websites, bulletins, brochures, and other promotional materials. They also offer Christian artists a place to network, discuss, critique, and freely share or sell their art.

    If you lack the design expertise, or access to a graphic designer, check out CreationSwap for website banners and photos. Below are some of our favorite free images.

    Photos

       
       

    Banners

       
       

    Do you have favorite images from CreativeSwap? Have you used their photos or banners in the past? Share your experiences in the comments.

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    MonMondayAprApril30th2012 4 Up-And-Coming Online Trends for Churches
    byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

    Churches are increasingly fighting with online media for attention of their members and seekers, and many have decided to use new technology to broaden their reach. Reliance on tech comes with its risks, however, as Christianity Today warns churches are in danger of replacing technology for the one-on-one relationships so vital for growing Christ-followers. Instead, they advise, tech innovations should supplement personal connections by making communication easier, anywhere at anytime.

    Here's a look at the latest church-related online innovations, the challenges of using each, and whether your church should incorporate them into your communication strategy.


    1. Online-only content

    Probably the most well-known innovators in online-exclusive content is LifeChurch.tv. This Oklahoma-based, multi-campus church streams 9-12 live services on its Church Online website each day, including live chatting with dedicated pastors and links to resources for seekers and new believers. Many other churches are beginning to live stream their services as the technology becomes easier and less expensive.

    Should My Church Do It?

    Not many churches have the resources or staff to have an "online campus," but you can always start small and see where it leads. Podcasting sermons is a good place to start (it's free and functionality is built into each iMinistries website). Live streaming of services is becoming more doable, even for smaller churches (free ways to broadcast services online).


    2. Real-time social media interaction

    We recently shared a story of a church in England which addresses questions via Twitter during services. This type of in-the-moment engagement is becoming more popular -- especially in larger churches -- to make congregants feel more a part of the service. Some churches ask congregants to text sentences of praise during service to a designated number and then display the text messages as a form of worship.

    Should My Church Do It?

    While instant engagement can be beneficial, pastor and author Josh Harris argues that it tends to cause listeners to think about what they're going to tweet instead of what God is saying to them through the sermon. Whether you should depart from the typical three-point sermon to such a drastically modern approach probably depends on your congregants and your pastor.


    3. Church rating websites

    We all know Yelp as a format for restaurant reviews, but they also allow users to review churches. Users can search for churches in their area and give them a 1-5 star rating, including a detailed written description. ChurchRater.com is a website dedicated solely to church evaluation and was created to help people moving into a community find a church that's right for them.

    Should My Church Do It?

    Unfortunately, you don't have much of a choice. Users can add and rate churches without the your consent, and, as with any ratings website, criticisms often outweigh praises. While checking what past visitors have to say about your church may be helpful in some cases, it's important to remember a few bad reviews are not universally representative. Keeping that in mind, you probably shouldn't build your communication strategy around addressing these reviews.


    4. Custom church mobile apps

    As the use of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets explode, many churches are racing to create custom church apps to connect with their congregants. Tech savvy churches like Mars Hill in Seattle have apps that stream sermon video and audio, display blog entries, show campus locations and directions, and allow for giving donations.

    Should My Church Do It?

    Apps are necessary if you have tons of online content and desire an easier way to display it on a mobile device. A mobile-optimized website (like an iMinistries CMS website) will often fulfill that need. Since custom app creation can be a costly enterprise, you should be sure your communications strategy warrants such an expense. (Note: if you have an iMinistries website, we are an alliance partner with The Church App that integrates with your website).


    Has your church adopted any of these new technologies? Are they working for you? Tell us in the comments.


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    MonMondayAprApril23rd2012 5 Blogs Every Church Website Administrator Should Read We all look for inspiration and advice from people smarter than us. For people who create websites, the challenge is finding which of the many "experts" are everything they claim. Good news -- we've done that work for you. Here are five blogs and online magazines you should start reading today.


    1. Katya's Non-Profit Marketing Blog

    www.nonprofitmarketingblog.com
    This blog from Katya Andreson, Chief Strategist for online giving platform Network for Good, drops a lot of knowledge in her regular posts. Entries give insight on how to market your non-profit to your regular supporters, as well as people just discovering you. She explains how to communicate your mission through telling stories of those you've impacted personally. She also shares ways to increase online giving, and promotes books and other resources on marketing trends.

    Favorite recent post:
    The Five Words That Made Women Give 20% More


    2. UX Magazine

    www.uxmagazine.com
    You won't find any fluff on this preeminent online magazine about User Experience (UX). Each article is deep, challenging, and full of information on website user behavior and how to make your website user friendly. Diverse writers provide a broad array of viewpoints, from the psychology of UX design to why storytelling is important. If you want to make your website users happy (you do, don't you?), UX Magazine is invaluable.

    Favorite recent post:
    Five Popular Web Strategies That Don't Work


    3. Mashable

    www.mashable.com
    Things in web world change every day -- sometimes even quicker. To stay ahead of the game, follow this social media and web news agency. Since Facebook regularly revamps their system (Timeline, anyone?) and new social media websites explode almost overnight, keeping informed is vital to any organization who uses social media to communicate. Just as valuable are the best-practice articles Mashable posts on topics like website content, marketing, and website creation.

    Favorite recent post:
    Content Markting: 5 Non-Profit Success Stories to Learn From


    4. A List Apart

    www.alistapart.com
    "For people who make websites" is this online magazines subtitle and mission. Here you'll find tons of articles on workflow and project management, design, content, and user experience. What you won't find is light reading. Each feature is packed with wisdom from seasoned website developers that you'll probably want to print out, highlight, and re-read.

    Favorite recent posts:
    A Checklist for Content Work
    Audiences, Outcomes, and Determining User Needs


    5. iMinistries Blog

    www.iministries.org/blog
    Building and maintaining a church website is no easy task. It takes special people with a broad array of talents and a deep understanding of ministry. When we present compelling ideas, church website inspiration, and useful advice to our readers, we speak from experience -- from building and maintaining church websites ourselves. So we hope this experience gives us perspective into what you need and what your users seek.

    Favorite recent post:
    What Makes a Healthy Online Presence for Churches? [INFOGRAPHIC]

    Don't see your favorite blog? Share it with us in the comments.

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    MonMondayAprApril16th2012 British Pastor Uses Twitter During Services [VIDEO]
    byBryan Young Tagged Social Media 0 comments Add comment

    While I was on vacation in Ireland, I caught a story on Sky News about a pastor in Somerset, England who uses Twitter feeds during services to interact with his audience.


    [The pastor] said: "I think churches across the nation struggle to reach particularly young adults in the 18-30 age range.

    "Social media - that's their normal form of communication and so I think to use those forms as a way of targeting our audience." Watch the full video on the Sky News website >

    This "Twitter Vicar" certainly got the attention of secular news agencies -- what kind of impact do you think this had on potential church attendees?

    Does this inspire you to incorporate social media into your services?

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    MonMondayAprApril9th2012 Gain User Support by Meeting These 4 Common Needs

    The folks at nonprofitmarketingblog.com often have incredible insights into the minds of the people who support non-profits. Many times, these insights are relatable for people who build websites -- especially church websites.

    All people have common needs and patterns of behavior. We can use these needs and behaviors to help gain their support, loyalty, and website visits. Meet these needs, and they will return again and again. Here are four common desires people have and how to satisfy them through your church website.


    TO BE SEEN AND HEARD


    People have always desired to stand out from the crowd, and most marketing efforts today pander to the idea that everyone is unique and special. No one wants to be a faceless number, now more than ever. So don't make them feel that way when they're on your website.

    Make it easy for people to contact you. And when they do, contact them back IMMEDIATELY. Listen to their feedback, too. If no one visits or likes something on your website, change it, even if it's your pet project.

    "Not listening is the root of most problems, personal and professional."
    - Nonprofit Marketing Blog


    TO BE CONNECTED TO SOMEONE/SOMETHING


    More than just being seen and heard, people want to feel like they are contributing to a cause. Be creative in the way in which you interact with your website visitors. Facebook and blogs are easy ways to create a dialogue with people, but how can you get people to join your movement? Why not tap your church's talented people to make videos, graphics, stories, and other inspiring content?

    "Engage by connecting to what your audience (NOT YOU) wants to hear."
    - Nonprofit Marketing Blog


    TO BE PART OF SOMETHING GREATER THAN THEMSELVES


    The most important reason to have a website is to share your mission. Why do you exist? What are your goals? How do you achieve them? Explaining your vision is key if you desire others to be inspired into uniting with you.

    "We need to lay out the grand vision of our cause ... That means a hopeful, inspiring message."
    - Nonprofit Marketing Blog


    TO HAVE THE SECURITY OF TRUST


    Don't just write out your mission statement. Anyone can say they do something. Show your ministry at work through compelling stories, videos, and other content. Make regular updates to display a continuous striving to accomplish your vision. When people see you back up your promises, they will trust and support you.

    "Honor the trust others have put in your organization."
    - Nonprofit Marketing Blog


    LEARN MORE



    Optimize Your Church Website for How People Think - iMinistries Blog
    What Makes a Healthy Online Presence for Churches? [INFOGRAPHIC] - iMinistries Blog
    What Do 76% of Visitors Want From Your Church Website? - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayAprApril2nd2012 Church Website Analytics: I've Got Data, Now What?
    byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Analytics are an important tool to measure the effectiveness of your website. Measuring and evaluating your website visitors--how they behave, who they are, what they look at, and what they don't--allows you to know what your users want and how you can deliver it to them.

    But after you've signed up for Google Analytics (or another analytics tool), installed the code in your ministry website, and have begun to receive data, what is the next step? How do you sort through all the numbers and percentages and make them work for you? Here are a few steps to get you from just compiling data to using it to make your website better.


    Use distribution, not averages


    • Recency: do people come again and again?
    • Depth: time on site and visitor loyalty

    If your ratio leans more toward new visitors than returning, it's time to evaluate your content's freshness. Likewise, if your time-on-site numbers are low for key pages, change the content! In order for you to get people to come back again and again, and stay on your site for long periods, make sure your content is both relevant and updated regularly. Ideally, you want to engage both new and returning visitors.


    Context is everything


    • Diversity: Don’t look at one metric by itself.
    • Compare: To the past, to the overall, and to industry standards

    If you don't compare metrics to other metrics, you'll never know what is good or bad. The easiest way to do this is to compare to the past. Are you visits up from last month? Keep up what you're doing. Down? Figure out why and make a change.

    Also, comparing your metrics to the overall is a good way of seeing where content might be falling short. Is your Contact page consist of 1% of overall visits? Maybe you need to drive traffic there with home page ads or call-to-action links on other pages.


    Segment your data


    • Break it down … and down … and down.

    Avinash Kaushik, Google Analytics Evangelist and analytics guru, says, "Never report a metric ... without segmenting it to give deep insights into what that metric is really hiding behind it." Using filters of data helps you find out where your websites strengths and weaknesses lie.

    Example segment:
    Overall visits > Source: Facebook > Day of week > Wednesday
    If you post on Facebook every Wednesday and this segmentation yields unimpressive numbers, something is wrong. Try posting on a different day of the week or explore more interactive posts


    Bounce rate: the "sexy metric"


    • Entry/Landing Pages: Are they effective at keeping people on your site?

    Your most popular landing page is your home page. This is where the majority of people will enter your website. Bounce rate (defined by Kaushik as "I came, I puked, I left") occurs when a user enters your website and exits before visiting a second web page. So do they stay or do they go?

    Example segment:
    Content: Page > Home page > Source: Search engine > Bounce Rate > Compare to overall
    This combination of segmentation and comparison can tell you if your landing pages are up to snuff. If people searched a keyword that lead to your website but exited before going further, this says they didn't see what they liked--either your site didn't match their search keywords, they couldn't find what they wanted, or the design was bad.


    "Experiment or go home"


    • Reporting is not analysis. Analysis depends on making decisions.
    • A/B testing: Let your customers/visitors make design decisions.

    Just because you activate analytics, doesn't mean you are analyzing. You must use this valuable data to improve your website. Don't be afraid to try new things. If it doesn't work (which you'll know through analytics), try something else.

    One way to experiment is through A/B testing, where you set up two or more versions of an element (red button versus blue button) and randomly show these versions to your visitors. The element that gets more clicks or visits is the winner and should be implemented for everyone. Google Website Optimizer makes it easy for you to hold your own A/B tests and track it in real time.


    Learn More About Church Website Analytics


    Google Analytics Tips for Your Ministry Website - iMinistries Blogs
    Occam's Razor Web Analytics Blog - Avinash Kaushik
    Complete Beginner's Guide to Web Analytics and Measurement - UX Booth

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    MonMondayMarMarch19th2012 5 Free Online Tools for Improving Your Website-Building Skills
    byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    Content Management Systems can make website management easy. However, sometimes your website needs extra attention that takes a deeper knowledge of how websites work. Below are 5 free tools you can use to take your church website from basic to "ballin'."


    1. Udemy



    The "Academy of You" offers free online courses in HTML, CSS, YouTube Marketing, and virtually any other tech topic you can think of. After enrolling in a course, you can watch the series of video lectures at your own pace. You can also ask questions of the instructor, or teach your own course.

    If you don't want to limit your learning to technology, Udemy also has courses in History, Literature, History, and others, offered by professors at some of the most prestigious institutions in the country (Yale, MIT, Stanford).

    Check out Udemy >



    2. Firebug


    If you've ever wanted to preview a content edit before you make it in your CMS, Firebug is a must have. This Firefox plugin allows you to view and edit website CSS and HTML, seeing the changes in real time.

    Just open the plugin, examine an element (table, list, background, etc.) and edit the HTML or CSS for a sneak peek at what it would look like. If you don't like the change, simply close Firebug and refresh the page. The changes you made will disappear. If you do like the edit, copy and paste the code into your CMS.

    Firebug is also a great way for beginners to learn HTML and CSS. The tool highlights the corresponding code when you hover over an element. You can then edit to see what happens, without risk of permanent change.

    Download the Firebug plugin >


    3. Mozilla School of Webcraft


    A "peer to peer" driven learning experience, this online school is based around "challenges" or small, interactive tests that help you learn, step-by-step. You'll join a group of other learners for courses like Webmaking 101, Javascript, and CSS Bliss & Beyond. Mentors are available for one-on-one help, as well as a deep forum for answering questions.

    Check out Mozilla School of Webcraft >



    4. Google Code University


    In their slow bid to take over the world, Google launched this website to help learn basic and advanced code writing. Mostly consisting of video tutorials and forums, Google's web development school features a vast array of topics on Web Programming, Linux, Programming Languages, and more.

    Check out Google Code University >


    5. Webinars


    You can find webinars on just about any topic imaginable, from website content (The Content Wrangler), to Internet Marketing (Hubspot), and SEO (SEO Moz). Webinars, especially free ones, can be hit and miss. But unlike a business meeting, you can leave early if you feel its not helpful.

    Many websites provide archives of past webinars, too, so you don't always have to sit in on a live event.

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    MonMondayMarMarch12th2012 Church Websites "A Must," Says the Evening News [VIDEO]
    byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    Church websites are so important for attracting new visitors, the topic made the local news telecast in East Texas. Titled, "Church Websites Important in Digital Age," the story features an interview with a pastor from a nearby church explaining why their church website is so essential to drawing new congregants.

    news video 

    Many churches have websites now-a-days, but the question is do they work and what impact do they have on visitors. We spoke with one East Texas pastor to find out.

    With hundreds of churches in East Texas, it's safe to say the competition for churches to gain new members can be a little stiff. But a new report says there's one thing churches badly need in this day-and-age.

    Don Spradling is the lead pastor at CrossPointe Community Church in Gresham. His church has their own website. With that, Mr. Spradling says, it's one of the best tools they have for reaching people.

    "About half of the people who visit us, visit us as a result of the website" [Spradling]
    ...

    Watch the full story video >>

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    MonMondayMarMarch5th2012 7 Religious Group Needs Met By The Internet [STUDY]
    byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Religious groups now use church websites, ministry websites, e-mail, and social media where they once depended on long meetings and expensive print materials.

    A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that American religious groups depend heavily on online interaction to connect with members and other religious groups.

    Members of religious groups said the Internet has had a major impact on regular group dynamics by helping with decision making, member-to-member and group-to-group interaction, and other everyday group efforts. Understanding what group needs are met by online technology can help your church or ministry website become a source of solutions for these groups. Ultimately, this understanding can translate to you serving the wants of all users.

    Here are seven key needs religious groups solve through the Internet and some ways to satisfy them:


    Communication

    Religious group members:
    • 49% said Internet has major impact on keeping up with group news and information
    • 68% said Internet has major impact on communicating with members

    Meet the need:

    • Make communication more interactive by using social media outlets, like Facebook, to dialogue with users
    • Post regular news updates on your website and sync them with your social media
    • Send e-newsletters to group members with monthly reminders, upcoming events, and meeting agendas

    Organization

    Religious group members:
    • 57% said Internet has major impact on organizing activities

    Meet the need:

    • Use online event registration to track attendees, manage event announcements, and organize ticketing
    • Promote events using news articles and social media posts or contests

    Fundraising

    Religious group members:
    • 20% said Internet has major impact on contributing money to groups
    • 46% said Internet has major impact on raising money

    Meet the need:

    • Incorporate online giving into your ministry website
    • Make the giving process as fast and frictionless as possible
    • Use online giving platforms, like Givio, with your branding or embedded within your website

    Promotion

    Religious group members:
    • 62% said Internet has major impact on drawing attention to an issue

    Meet the need:

    • Use ads and banners on your website home page to boost visibility
    • Spread cause promotion across social media using campaigns and contests

    Collaboration

    Religious group members:
    • 57% said Internet has major impact on connecting with other groups

    Meet the need:

    • Join Google+ and join circles with similar groups
    • Share other groups' posts on your Facebook wall

    Recruiting

    Religious group members:
    • 44% said Internet has major impact on recruiting new members
    • 30% said Internet has major impact on finding people to take leadership roles

    Meet the need:

    • Optimize your website for search engine findability by utilizing key search terms in your content (Chicago homeless ministry; Dallas widow support group)
    • Use collaboration methods to find like-minded people

    Community/Society Impact

    Religious group members:
    • 46% said Internet has major impact on impacting local communities
    • 58% said Internet has major impact on impacting society at large

    Meet the need:

    • Utilize social media and your website to draw attention to your mission and demonstrate how people can get involved
    • Share compelling stories of your ministry at work through videos and written articles
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    MonMondayFebFebruary27th2012 Study: Religious Americans Use Internet as Much as Everyone Else
    byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Research continues to show the importance church websites and an active online presence.

    A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that religiously active Americans use online technology as much (if not more) than other Americans.

    A church's online presence is key to every ministry wishing to remain relevant in today's tech-driven age. A church website—one that actively engages its users, is findable on search engines, and attracts visitors to its real world counterpart—is pivotal.

    Here are four important findings from the study and how you should react:


    Religious Americans are Online

    79% of Americans who are active in religious groups are internet users, compared with 75% of those not involved with religious groups

    So you should ...

    • Have a church website that engages your visitors
    • Update your site with fresh, interesting news articles, event pages, blog entries, podcasts, and videos
    • Drive your congregation from your bulletin to your website with easy-to-remember URL shortcuts
    • Advertise "exclusive extras" from the pulpit

    Religious Americans are Mobile

    86% of Americans who are active in religious groups are cell phone users, compared with 80% of those not involved with religious groups

    So you should ...

    • Upload your podcast to iTunes so listeners can easily upload to smart phones
    • Limit the use of Flash on your website, so mobile visitors don't miss anything
    • Best-case-scenario: have a mobile version of your website
    • Research creating an app for your church or ministry

    Religious Americans are Active E-mailers

    75% of religiously active Americans are email users, compared with 68% of those who are not involved with religious groups.

    So you should ...

    • Send out regular e-newsletters with links back to your website
    • Segment e-newsletter recipients based on the audience (by ministry, age group, gender, marital status, etc.)

    Religious Americans are Social

    46% of these religiously active Americans use social networking sites such as Facebook, compared with 49% of those who are not involved with religious groups.

    So you should ...

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    MonMondayJanJanuary23rd2012 Optimize Your Church Website for How People Think
    In their article, "The Psychologist's View of UX," UX Magazine explains the how the working of the human brain effects how we should create websites.

    Below are five facts about how people behave and how we we should take these behaviors in account when creating church websites. 


    1. People Crave Information


    People will always desire more and new knowledge that comes from consuming information. Your church website exists mainly to help quench that thirst, so make sure you provide the information visitors seek. Check which words and phrases people are searching on your website--maybe they can't find this information easily enough.

    More wisdom from UX Magazine...
    • "People will often want more information than they can actually process. Having more information makes people feel that they have more choices. Having more choices makes people feel in control. Feeling in control makes people feel they will survive better."
    • "People need feedback. The computer doesn't need to tell the human that it is loading the file. The human needs to know what is going on."

    Read it: 4 Questions You Should Answer on Your Church Website's Home Page


    2. People Don't Want to Work or Think More Than They Have To


    UX Magazine explains, "People will do the least amount of work possible to get a task done." This means not overwhelming users with more "stuff"--links, banners, graphics, text--than necessary. Find out, through analytics and user testing, what the most important information is to users and make it easier to find. Through the same means, find out what is not important and get rid of it.

    More wisdom from UX Magazine...
    • "It is better to show people a little bit of information and let them choose if they want more details."
    • "Instead of just describing things, show people an example."
    • "Only provide the features that people really need. Don't rely on your opinion of what you think they need; do user research to actually find out. Giving people more than they need just clutters up the experience."
    • "Provide defaults. Defaults let people do less work to get the job done."

    Read it: Your Church Website's Reservoir of Goodwill (and 3 Ways to Keep it Full)


    3. People Have Limitations


    Even though people often crave more information than they can process (see #1), their brains do have limits. Making your content readable and eliminating unnecessary content will fill visitors with the right information instead of the useless.

    More wisdom from UX Magazine...
    • "People can only look at so much information or read so much text on a screen without losing interest. Only provide the information that's needed at the moment."
    • "Make the information easy to scan."
    • "People can't multi-task. The research is very clear on this, so don't expect them to."
    • "People prefer short line lengths, but they read better with longer ones! It's a conundrum, so decide whether preference or performance is more important in your case, but know that people are going to ask for things that actually aren't best for them."

    Read it: 3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience


    4. People Make Mistakes


    None of us are perfect. This is what makes the good news of the gospel so good! Translate that to your church website's usability by knowing that your visitors will ultimately get lost, click on a link that goes a different place then they thought, or find something hard to understand.

    Try to anticipate these future errors by making a list of all the tasks a visitor might try to complete on your website--are they easy to complete? If not, try to find a way to prevent these mistakes.

    More wisdom from UX Magazine...
    • Preventing errors from occurring is always better than helping people correct them once they occur. The best error message is no message at all.
    • If a task is error-prone, break it up into smaller chunks.
    • If the user makes and error and you can correct it, then do so and show what you did.
    • Whoever is designing the UX makes errors too, so make sure that there is time and energy for iteration, user feedback, and testing.

    Read it: 10 Mistakes Not to Make on Your Church Website


    5. People are Social


    UX Magazine explains that, "People will always try to use technology to be social. This has been true for thousands of years." You can cater to this desire by creating content that is sharable between groups of people. Videos, blogs, interesting stories, and podcasts are all ways to spark the social fire in your website visitors.

    More wisdom from UX Magazine:

    • If you do a favor for me then I will feel indebted to give you a favor back (reciprocity). Research shows that if you want people to fill out a form, give them something they want and then ask for them to fill out the form, not vice versa.
    • When you watch someone do something, the same parts in your brain light up as though you were doing it yourself (called mirror neurons). We are programmed with our biology to imitate. If you want people to do something then show someone else doing it.
    • You can only have strong ties to 150 people. Strong ties are defined as ties that with people you are in close physical proximity to. But weak ties can be in the thousands and are very influential (à la Facebook).

    Read it: 4 Reasons Your Church Website Should Tell Your Story
    5 Reasons Why Your Church Website Should Have a Blog

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    MonMondayDecDecember26th2011 11 Best Church Website Articles of 2011
    byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    Everyone loves a good year-end "best of" list. We at iMinistries are no different. Here are our favorite blog entries of 2011, each one packed with great advice, tips, and tricks to improve your church website.


    John Maxwell on Websites: Communicating vs. Connecting

    In his book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, leadership guru John Maxwell talks about the difference between communicating with people and actually connecting with them at a deeper level. While reading this book, I found that many of the strategies he uses for connecting with others in social interactions and speaking engagements can be used for ministry and church websites.

    Read more >>


     

    5 Ways to Improve Your Church Website,
    Gordon Ramsay Style

    Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has a potty mouth. He also has a tested method of saving failed restaurants. See how his process can help make your church website better.

    Read more >>


    5 Types of People You Need To Make a Great Church Website

    It takes a village to raise a child. But it only takes a few motivated people to make your church website a success. Here are the people you need on your web team. Or you could luck out and meet a person with all these traits.

    Read more >>

     

    10 Mistakes Not to Make on Your Church Website

    Here are the most common mistakes made by church websites. Be sure you don't make them.

    Read more >>

     

    4 Calls to Action Your Church Website Should Have

    Your church website is more than just pretty graphics and flowery text. It should be a catalyst for action. When visitors land on your home page, they should be prompted to do something. We call these prompts "calls to action."

    Read more >>


    4 Reasons Your Church Website Should Tell Your Story

    One of your church website's primary goals should be to explain who you are and what you strive to do. Most websites simply create a few pages in their About Us section to achieve this goal, writing out their mission and beliefs in lists or bullets. This can be an effective way of telling your values, but a better way is to show your values at work in the lives of people?

    Read more >>

     

    4 Questions You Should Answer on Your Church Website's Home Page

    When users come to your home page, they often come wanting four specific questions answered. It's your job as web administrator to make sure these questions are answered immediately, and without creating other questions in the user's mind, or risk losing the visitor to frustration.

    Read more >>



    Your Church Website's Reservoir of Goodwill
    (and 3 Ways to Keep it Full)

    Your website visitors enter your site wanting something--your service times, your location, to contact you--and each obstacle they encounter decreases their experience satisfaction level (a Reservoir of Goodwill, if you will).

    Read more >>



    4 Free Tools to Test Your Church Website's Usability

    Here are four free and easy-to-implement tools that will give you insights on your website's user experience from real, unbiased sources (actual website visitors).

    Read more >>

     

    4 Steps to Treating (Not Tricking) Your Church Website Visitors

    Your church website visitors are no different than the costumed children who go house to house during Halloween--give them what they came for, or they're moving on.

    Read more >>

     

    4 Things the First Thanksgiving Can Teach us About Church Websites

    Since history can be studied to teach us lessons for the future, I thought it would be fun to see what the first Thanksgiving could teach us about church websites.

    Read more >>
     

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    MonMondayDecDecember5th2011 7 Great Church Logos Used in Church Website Branding
    byBryan Young Tagged Church Design 0 comments Add comment
    One purpose of your church website is to promote your church brand--its values, mission, and story. Your church logo is the primary conveyor of your brand, on your website (it should be the first thing visitors see), your letterhead, bulletin, and other materials. If your logo doesn't reflect who you are, it may be time to make a change.

    Here are 7 examples of churches who use a logo, featured prominently on their church website, that mirrors their brand.

    Christ Church
    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Their brand

    "Christ Church is more than just a building. It's a group of people coming together to leave a personal and eternal 'fingerprint' on the world around us."
    - Christ Church website

    How the logo promotes the brand

    Fingerprints combine to create a cross, representing the different, unique people that combine to create the church.


    Catalyst Church
    Middletown, CT

    Their brand

    "Catalyst Church ... [is] passionate about creating environments where people can connect with God."
    - Catalyst Church website

    How the logo promotes the brand

    The fiery red color evokes energy and passion. The button with arrows inspires action and connection.


    City Church
    Billings, MT

    Their brand

    "The local church is the instrument God is using to extend His Kingdom on the earth today!"
    - City Church website

    How the logo promotes the brand

    The earthy colors of the city skyline reflect the mountainous landscape of Montana. The white text on a black background represents the "light in the darkness" role the church plays in the world.


    New City Church
    Phoenix, AZ

    Their brand

    "Cities are the center of culture. Often, they are the intersection of art, politics, and business. New City exists to engage culture where it’s created, weaving the story of God into the story of Phoenix."
    - New City Church website

    How the logo promotes the brand

    The mosaic circle design imitates a city street grid and the intersection of lines refers back to the intersection of ideas mentioned in the mission statement. If you look closely, you'll see a few crosses mingled in. 


    Park Community Church
    Chicago, IL

    Their brand

    "Our vision: to be a biblical community where the Gospel of Jesus Christ transforms lives, renews the city and impacts the world."
    - Park Community website

    How the logo promotes the brand

    A bright cross resides inside the shining lights of the Chicago skyline, much like this church strives to be a beacon of hope in the heart of the city.


    Redemption Church
    Gilbert, AZ

    Their brand

    “Redemption Church is born out of the conviction that the church unified can impact the world dramatically for the gospel. ... The vision of Redemption Church is to saturate the State of Arizona with Gospel-centered, Reformed, Missional churches through campuses and church plants.”
    - Redemption Church website

    How the logo promotes the brand

    Redemption's singular "R" stands within a circle, conveying the idea of unity of conviction and vision the church maintains while meeting at many locations throughout Arizona. The circle itself recalls the sun, a prominent symbol of Arizona.


    the well
    Ludlow, KY

    Their brand

    "We weren't meant to do this alone. The strength of the church lies within its community. ... We want to be a part of a vibrant, growing community."
    - the well website

    How the logo promotes the brand

    A well is a central meeting place and source of life and refreshment within biblical communities. This church strives to be that place spiritually for the people of Ludlow, Kentucky. The combination of well and cross imagery in the church's logo is clear and moving.

    How does your church logo promote your brand?

    Is it time to re-evaluate your church logo? Does it tell your website visitors who you are? Use the examples above to inspire you.

    Learn More About Church Website Branding

    Using Your Church Website to Promote Your Brand - iMinistries Blog
    2 Questions to Answer When Branding Your Church Website - iMinistries Blog
    Jeff Schwartzentraub: Your Church Website Promotes Your Brand [Video] - iMinistries Blog
    Top 77 Church Logos of 2011 - ChurchRelevance.com

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    MonMondayNovNovember28th2011 3 Modern SEO Tips for Church Websites
    byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment
    Search engines are constantly adapting how they compile their results to how people are interacting with the web. Below are three best practices to make sure your church website gets found in modern searches.

    1. Beef up your Google Places profile

    eyetracking heatmap

    Recent studies have shown that people's eyes gravitate to local listings when they come up in Google searches (see SEOmoz's eye-tracking heat maps to the right).

    To optimize your Google Places profile:
    1. Search for your location on Google (if no profile exists, visit google.com/places to create one).
    2. Select the place marker and "More Info" to view its profile.
    3. Click the "Manage the page" button on the profile page, under "Is This Your Business?"
    4. To edit your profile, follow the steps to validate your ownership.
    5. Make sure your address, contact information, website, and marker placement are correct.
    6. Add a description of your church or ministry, briefly stating who you are and your mission.
    7. Add categories ("Lutheran Church," "Religious Organization," etc.) to help searchers find you.
    8. Add photos, videos, and further details (service times, ministries offered, etc.) to give people more reasons to visit.

    2. Increase Social Media engagement

    Today, social media has become the way in which people navigate the Internet, so search engines have begun to give more weight to popular content on Facebook and Twitter.

    Studies by SEOmoz have shown that content gets a boost in search results when shared across social media channels ("Retweet," "Like," or "+1"). Make it a goal to post regular, relevant content on Facebook or Twitter (especially content that directs users to your website), and you'll see its positive impact on visits to your website.

    3. Create interesting content, incorporating keywords

    Even though search engines have adapted over the years, the best way to keep people coming to your church website remains to continuously provide compelling content. Make your website the source for extra information for your members, not just basic information for first-timers. In all content, focus on using keywords and phrases that people might use to find you.
    • Start a blog from ministry leaders, addressing relevant topics
    • Write studies that coincide with your current sermon series
    • Update your news regularly
    • Create event landing pages and registration

    Learn More About Modern SEO for Church Websites

    Improving Google Search Results - iMinistries Blog Series
    Keyword Phrase Strategy's Importance to SEO - iMinistries Blog
    6 Best Practices for Modern SEO - Mashable

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    MonMondayNovNovember21st2011 4 Things the First Thanksgiving Can Teach us About Church Websites On Thursday, Americans will sit around tables with family and gorge themselves with food. Afterward, they'll try to stave off naps with football and pumpkin pie. And, if they remember, they'll thank God for the many blessings he's provided them over the past year.

    Our history books (Wikipedia) tell us that this event hearkens back to a 1621 feast held by Pilgrims and members of the Wampanoag tribe to celebrate a successful harvest season. Since history can be studied to teach us lessons for the future, I thought it would be fun to see what the first Thanksgiving could teach us about church websites.

    Don't assume newcomers know what they're doing.

    "Squanto, a Patuxet Native American who resided with the Wampanoag tribe, taught the Pilgrims how to catch eel and grow corn and served as an interpreter for them."
    History
    After landing in Plymouth in 1620, the Pilgrims found their new home unforgiving--less than half of the original survived the first winter. It was only because the local Native Americans welcomed them and showed them how to gather food that they later thrived.

    Church Website Wisdom
    If your visitors are new to your site, they could be easily overwhelmed by confusing navigation and uncertain messaging. Make it clear what your users should do next with clear calls to action.

    Put your own spin on the commonly done--it might go viral.

    "Thanksgiving services were routine in what was to become the Commonwealth of Virginia as early as 1607, with the first permanent settlement of Jamestown, Virginia holding a thanksgiving in 1610 ... harvest festivals [previously] existed in English and Wampanoag tradition alike."
    History
    The first Thanksgiving was not the first time a similar event had taken place. Other harvest feasts in the U.S. were celebrated as far back as the 16th century, but when we think Thanksgiving, we think of the one held in Plymouth.

    Church Website Wisdom
    Just because pastor blogs, sermon podcasts, ministry videos, and other content have been made before, doesn't mean you can't do it better. Be creative when posting content on your church website and watch it spread.

    Being social and sharing are good.

    "Wampanoag leader Massasoit had donated food stores to the fledgling colony during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient ... The celebration lasted three days and featured a feast that included numerous types of waterfowl, wild turkeys and fish procured by the colonists, and five deer brought by the Native Americans."

    History
    The Pilgrims weren't alone when they celebrated Thanksgiving. They were joined by 90 Native Americans, contributing food and reveling in the colony's success.

    Church Website Wisdom
    Engaging your users through social media, by re-posting content from your website on Facebook or linking to it from Twitter, is an effective way to get people to your website. Getting people to interact with or share your content with others also can positively influence your search rankings.

    Focus on the purpose.

    "Thus they found the Lord to be with them in all their ways, and to bless their outgoings and incomings, for which let His holy name have the praise forever, to all posterity." - William Bradford
    History
    Although the Pilgrims had achieved some success in hunting, harvesting crops, and reviving a dying colony the Pilgrims did not forget the true source of their blessings--God and the Native Americans whom God sent.

    Church Website Wisdom
    Never forget why your website exists. It is for your users to find information about you and your ministry, and ultimately to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. This understanding will drive everything else you do on your website.

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    MonMondayNovNovember14th2011 7 Characteristics of Good Content on Church Websites Smart people heed the advice of people smarter than them. So I often look to the folks at A List Apart for wisdom on best practices for the web. Below is their seven-part checklist for effective website content and how it applies to church websites.

    Good Content is Concise

    "Omit needless content"
    The slogans "less is more" and "Keep It Simple, Stupid" became truisms for a reason. More content on your website makes it harder for your visitors to find what they came looking for. Using analytics and user testing can give you an idea if people can find what they want and help you rid your website of superfluous content.

    Good Content is Supported

    "Publish no content without a support plan"
    You wouldn't plant a vegetable garden and leave it to fend for itself. You must tend it, water it, and care for it. The same is true for your web content. Weed out and trim back your content ROT. Water your pages with updated information. Fertilize your sections with fresh ways to present your information--with videos, blogs, or social media integration. Only then will your content bear fruit for you users.

    Good Content Fits Your Purpose

    "Publish content that is right for the user and for the business"
    • It is right for the user: it helps them accomplish their goals
      Some users come to learn what you believe. Some visit to find out where you are. Others want to know how they can give. If your content does not help your user fulfill their mission for visiting, it is not good content.
    • It is right for you, the organization: it helps you achieve your goals
      Ultimately, churches create websites to carry-out their goals. Spreading the gospel beyond their local community, increasing online giving, and developing a bigger base of volunteers are just some goals that church website content can help you achieve.

    Good Content is Useful

    "Define a clear, specific purpose for each piece of content; evaluate content against this purpose"
    After developing some big-picture goals for your website, take it a step further by identifying the precise reason for each content item. If you can't determine a good reason for having a page or video on your website, it shouldn't be there.

    Good Content is User-Centered

    "Adopt the cognitive frameworks of your users"
    When developing content, think like your user does. According to A List Apart, "[this] means that the days of designing a site map to mirror an org chart are over." If your visitors don't know your junior high ministry's name is Uplift, why would you include that name in your navigation? Take the time to remove content that would not make sense to a user with no previous knowledge of your ministry--internal mission statements, jargon, and vague descriptions.

    Good Content is Clear

    "Seek clarity in all things"
    All content should be easy to understand and find. The more thinking your user has to do because of your content, the less likely they'll leave your website with a full reservoir of goodwill toward your ministry.

    Good Content is Consistent

    "Mandate consistency, within reason"
    Just like content that is difficult to understand increases your visitors' cognitive workload, so too does content with inconsistent voice, presentation, and mission. Inconsistent content also makes it easier for your user to become distracted or find content difficult to understand.

    Learn more about Good Content for Church Websites

    Content Strategy for Church Websites - iMinistries Blog
    5 Tips for Making Your Church Website Content More Readable - iMinistries Blog
    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience - iMinistries Blog
     
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    MonMondayOctOctober31st2011 4 Steps to Treating (Not Tricking) Your Church Website Visitors This month, millions of kids across the U.S. will don superhero, princess, and pirate costumes in exchange for bagfuls of candy from strangers. When they ask "trick-or-treat?" from neighborhood porches or similar church-hosted celebrations, the question is rhetorical--there better a treat on its way, or its on to the next place.

    Your church website visitors are no different than those costumed children--give them what they came for, or they're moving on.

    Whether your preparing for hundreds of mask-wearing toddlers to visit your home expecting candy, or hundreds of website visitors expecting information, the concepts are the same. Here are four ways to leave your church website visitors with an "I-just-got-chocolate" smile on their face.

    1. Welcome them to your doorstep.

    Trick-or-treat style

    Turn your porch light on, open your door, and have a seat with a giant bowl of candy on your lap.

    On your website

    Ensure your visitors know they came to the right place by displaying your logo and name in the upper part of your home page. Use clean design and your brand look-and-feel to give a pleasing first impression.

    2. Don't scare them away.

    Trick-or-treat style

    Some spooky decor is acceptable, but don't go overboard. Jumping out of the fake coffin may be too much for some people.

    On your website

    Take it easy on the rotating banners and ads. Limit yourself to a handful of advertisements per banner, and make a clear call to action for each. Too many moving parts will overwhelm your visitor.

    Use simple navigation at the top of your home page to make it easy for users to know where to go next. Displaying news, events, your contact information, and a search bar will help your visitor find what they're looking for faster.

    3. Give out quality goodies.

    Trick-or-treat style

    Everyone knows which house gives out pennies and which gives out full-size candy bars. They all go to the candy bar house.

    On your website

    People come to your church website for compelling content and useful information. Be creative in how you deliver. Videos, interactive blogs, live sermon feeds, and podcasts are all great ways to get repeat website visitors.

    4. Evaluate steps 1-3, improve, repeat.

    Trick-or-treat style

    Ask yourself some questions, and let the answers determine your future actions ...

    Which candy was a hit, which wasn't?  Buy more of the hit, none of the dud.
    How can I get more traffic?  Coffee for the parents?
    Were younger kids too afraid of the decor?  Ditch it in favor of more visitors.

    On your website

    Ask yourself some questions, and let the answers (supported by user testing and analytics)
    determine your future actions ...

    Which content was a hit, which wasn't? Create more of the hit, get rid of the dud.
    What are visitors searching for? Does navigation make sense for the user?
    How can I lower my bounce rate? Simplify home page with less ads and banners.

    Your feedback

    Do you have any church website horror stories? Where you ever tricked instead of treated? Share your comments below.

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    MonMondayOctOctober24th2011 5 Essential Articles For Freshening Up Your Church Website Does your church website need a pick-me-up? Read these five articles packed full of tips for bringing new life to your old website.

    Content Clean-Up: Get Rid of Your Church Website's ROT

    How to remove your website's redundant, outdated, and trivial content.

    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience

    Instead of adding new stuff, delete some content. Giving your users less choices actually helps them. Novel concept, huh?

    5 Ways to Prepare Your Church Website For A New Ministry Year

    Ever held a content manager summit or done user testing? How about setting up a content schedule? Creating landing pages for new sermon series? Here's some ideas on how to get started.

    4 Calls to Action Your Church Website Should Have

    How to incorporate calls to learn, visit, contact, and give throughout your website and on your home page.

    5 Ways to Improve Your Church Website, Gordon Ramsay Style

    My mom says reality TV is useless garbage. I love proving her wrong. Learn what this celebrity chef says about restaurants and how to make his advice useful on your church website.

    What do you think?

    Do you have any tips for refreshing your church website? Share them in the comments.

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    MonMondayOctOctober17th2011 4 Free Tools to Test Your Church Website's Usability As the administrator of your church website, you are not the best evaluator of its usability. You live and breathe the website every day. You know exactly what information each page contains, where they live on the site, and the fastest way to get there. Since you know so much about your site, you need real users and fresh eyes to tell you if your user experience is positive or negative.

    Here are four free and easy-to-implement tools that will give you insights on your website's user experience from real, unbiased sources (actual website visitors).

    1. SeeVolution



    What it does
    Heat maps show where visitors click and scroll; provides basic pageview analytics

    What you get

    • Tool use for up to 200 users on one domain
    • 7 days of data
    How it's helpful
    You can use the click heat maps to see where people are clicking (or not clicking), giving you insight on what's getting user attention and what needs help. Scroll heat maps show you if your users are finding the information you put below the fold and if you should move the important info up. Basic pageview statistics give you a peak at traffic without the complexity of Google Analytics. Visit SeeVolution.com >

    2. FiveSecondTest



    What it does
    Upload images of your web pages and ask questions about them to users from FST's database or the general public

    What you get for free
    • Public tests
    • No priority as to how they're assigned to testers
    • Create tests to get more tests
    How it's helpful
    Users see a web page for 5 seconds and then answer questions about first impressions, design, and trustworthiness. These tests are a good way to gauge your home or landing pages' effectiveness at wowing a first-time visitor. Visit FiveSecondTest.com >

    3.  Userfly



    What it does
    Set up tasks for users to complete on your website and then watch recordings of the tests

    What you get for free
    • 10 screen capture recordings per month
    • Recordings stored for 30 days
    • You have to recruit testers, however
    How it's helpful
    Allows you to see if your website is easy to navigate, use, and find information from real users. Gives you an easy way to set up user testing without buying screen capture software or paying a company to
    hold testing for you. Visit Userfly.com >

    4. Polldaddy



    What it does
    Lets you create polls and surveys to ask your website visitors; provides an embeddable user ratings system for you website's blogs, videos, and other content

    What you get for free
    • 200 survey responses per month
    • 10 questions per survey
    • basic reports
    • surveys contain Polldaddy links
    How it's helpful
    You can get valuable user feedback about your website from surveys that you link to or pop-up from your site. Ask about the helpfulness of your content is, the relevance of your information, and ease of your navigation. The ratings system provided allows visitors to tell you how much they like your content by giving it five stars, or one stars--giving you immediate feedback on if you're providing what your users
    want and like. Visit Polldaddy.com >

    They're Free ... so use them!

    Now that you have the tools at hand, you have no excuses not to have a website with a great user experience. How do you plan on using these tools?

    Learn More About Improving Your User Experience

    4 Questions to Improve Your Church Website's Usability - iMinistries Blog
    6 Disciplines For Improving Church Website UX - iMinistries Blog
    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayOctOctober10th2011 2 Questions to Answer When Branding Your Church Website
    byBryan Young Tagged Church Design 0 comments Add comment
    starbucks interiorNext time you pick up a latte at your local Starbucks, make mental notes at all the ways in which they promote their brand. I'm not talking about just their green mermaid logo, but what their company stands for--quality products, responsible business practices, fast service, that "coffee shop" feel, and inclusiveness. You might have noticed this ...
    • The thick aroma of brewing coffee
    • Posters of their coffee bean growers, from small farms around the world
    • The whooshing of steamed milk with relaxing jazz music playing in the background
    • Rich wood and oversized, plush furniture
    • Its own language, spoken by drink orderers and creators

    Like this Starbucks store, branding on your church website is more than just slapping your logo on the home page and picking a color scheme. Here are two questions to answer to help promote your church brand on your website.

    1. What is your story? [Strategy]

    Your website users want to know if you value what they do. So tell them what you value.
    What is your ...
    • Beliefs
    • History
    • Mission/Vision
    • Impact on people
    • Impact in your community

    2. How is that story best told? [Tactics]

    Now you need to determine how to tell your story to your website visitors. Base your storytelling techniques on the people who visit your ministry and your website. Are they ...
    • Readers (traditional written stories)
    • Media-consumers (inspirational videos of changed lives)
    • Social butterflies (blog and social media interaction)
    • Audiophiles (podcast interviews or sermons)
    • Attention deficient (one off graphics and banners)
    • Data-hungry (web pages with lists, charts, and pure information)

    Learn more about branding

    The New World Order of Branding - And What It Means To You - Katya's Non-Profit Marketing
    Using Your Church Website to Promote Your Brand - iMinistries Blog
    Jeff Schwartzentraub: Your Church Website Promotes Your Brand [Video] - iMinistries Blog
    Find Your Church's Brand Identity - Church Solutions
    Discovering Your Brand - Church Relevance 

    Free Trial

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    Start your 15-day free trial account,

    MonMondayOctOctober3rd2011 4 Questions to Improve Your Church Website's Usability

    Want to improve your church website's user experience (UX) and don't know where to begin? Start with by asking yourself these four questions.

    1. "Is There Too Much Stuff?"

    "It's all about removing the unnecessary."
    - Jonathan Ive, Senior VP of Industrial Design at Apple

    We've already talked about how removing superfluous features and content can make it easier for your visitors to find what they're looking for. Help your users out by making the most-asked-for information front-and-center. You don't want your website to end up looking like the stop sign in the video below.



    2. "Do Users Have To Think?"

    This step, taken from Steve Krug's UX opus, Don't Make Me Think, calls you to help make the decisions users have to make as easy as possible. It only takes seconds of indecision before users become frustrated, so don't press you luck by trying to be cute with "creative" menu titles, for example.

    Think like your user would think when creating your website navigation. Where would Average Joe look for your doctrinal statement? What would Jane Doe name your Contact page?

    3. "Are My Users Happy?"

    “Don’t lose sight of user delight.”
    Mark Pincus, founder of Zynga

    Just because your website is primarily a storehouse of information doesn't mean you can't seek to make your users joyfully satisfied. Just making it easy to find the information they want can make your users pleased, but posting content that's a step above the usual will get them excited and keep them wanting more.

    Why not try ...
    • Posting video announcements instead of your weekly bulletin
    • Adding web-only content from your pastor or church leaders
    • Creating blog posts that ask engaging questions and encourage comments
    • Showing your weekly service online

    4. "Do I Make a Good First Impression?"

    "We’re psychologically hardwired to trust beautiful people, and the same goes for websites."
    - Dr. Brent Coker, University of Melbourne

    In a new University of Melbourne study, Dr. Brent Coker found that users' trust in a website depends heavily on its visual appeal. This appeal starts with your home page (or other landing pages, if you have them). An attractive church website home page is clean, colorful, organized intuitively, and expresses what your church stands for.


    Learn more about UX

    Five Low-Hanging UX Tips - UX Magazine
    6 Disciplines For Improving Church Website UX - iMinistries Blog
    Your Church Website's Reservoir of Goodwill (and 3 Ways to Keep it Full) - iMinistries Blog
    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience - iMinistries Blog
    4 Questions You Should Answer on Your Church Website's Home Page - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondaySepSeptember26th2011 6 Disciplines For Improving Church Website UX After years of testing, evaluating, and surveying, the customer experience experts at Forrester Research, Inc. have identified the 40 key practices organizations should follow to reach the customer experience apex. These practices all fall into six key disciplines. Here are the User Experience (UX) disciplines you can perfect to ensure your church website users have a positive experience.

    1. User Understanding

    It is impossible to please your user if you don't know who they are and what they want. Only after knowing more about your visitors can you hope to make them happy. Your church website visitors are most likely a reflection of who visits your physical ministry.
    • In Practice
      If your ministry members are voracious readers, start writing a blog with "inside information" on what your ministry is up to. If they skew more young and tech-savvy, post some videos and integrate your social media feeds to keep them connected.

    2. Measurement

    There are several ways to find out if people are happy with your website. Analytics can show you how long people stay on your website, which pages they like, and which ones they don't care so much about. User surveys and tests can give you insight on your website's strengths and weaknesses. Successful organizations get feedback from their customers and use it to make changes.
    • In Practice
      Set up a simple user test in your church lobby and grab some volunteers on Sunday morning. Give them a few tasks to complete on your website, then record the process. Was it easy or difficult? Did they get frustrated or give up? Fix the issues that several people came across.

    3. Governance

    Organizing your website maintenance responsibilities will help you ensure that your website meets your users' needs. Having your ministry leaders write their section's content keeps away inaccurate information. Giving your church admin. assistant access to Contact Us form submissions assures that questions will get answered quickly.
    • In practice
      Establish your authority over web content. Create a Web Standards Guide and use it to keep your website's content at a high quality level. Hold regular content audits to make sure content is up-to-date and relevant.

    4. Strategy

    Before you start posting pages or writing content, you have to know what you want to achieve. Look at discipline #1, and determine what your users want and how you're going to give it to them. Putting a clear web strategy into place will keep you (and your partners in ministry) from posting anything and everything on your website.
    • In Practice
      Write down your ministry's goals and distinctives. How will your website meet these goals? Formulate your content strategy and only post content that follows it.

    5. Design

    After your web strategy is in place, you'll need to figure out how your website's design can help you reach your goals. Make sure that your church's brand (logo, color scheme, key phrases or ideas) is firmly in place and that the look and feel expresses what you want it to.
    • In practice
      Use banners, ads, images, and quicklinks on your home page to direct users to the pages they are most interested in.

    6. Culture

    In order for these disciplines to become habitual, you'll need everyone to buy into a user-centric attitude. Your web team, volunteers, ministry leaders, and even yourself will only practice these six disciplines if "user first" is your true culture.
    • In practice
      Make these disciplines fun, interactive, and with the user in the forefront of your mind. Have quarterly "Web Summits" where you brainstorm new ideas, re-emphasize your disciplines, hold user testing, and audit content together.



    Learn more about UX

    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience - iMinistries Blog
    Content Clean-Up: Get Rid of Your Church Website's ROT - iMinistries Blog
    Your Church Website's Reservoir of Goodwill (and 3 Ways to Keep it Full) - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondaySepSeptember19th2011 Content Clean-Up: Get Rid of Your Church Website's ROT
    "Big websites aren’t better websites. Get rid of the ROT." - Brain Traffic Blog
    Fall is the perfect time for a re-evaluation of your church website's content. Before the new ministry year jumps into full gear, now is the time to check every page on your site and remove the ROT.

    What is ROT?

    ROT is content that is ...
    • Redundant
    • Outdated
    • Trivial

     
     

    Redundant

    If you have two pages on your website that provide the same information, delete one. If two pages are similar, combine the information onto one unified page.

    Example:

    If your Service Times page includes your address, map, and directions, you don't need a Location page. Delete it and give your location its own section on your Service Times page.

     
     

    Outdated

    You may have a thriving ministry, but if you have content on your home page that hasn't been updated, what is that telling your website's new visitors? By displaying long-past content, you're implying that your ministry is stuck in inactivity.

    Example:

    Remove those old items and post upcoming events and fresh news stories. Add some new blog entries and feature photos from this year's youth camp (not ones from last year). 

     
     

    Trivial

    The content you include on your website tells its visitors what you value. Think twice about each piece of content you add:
    • Does it fit what your ministry promotes?
    • Is this what people want from your website?
    Example:
    If you're a ministry that focuses on world missions, it's probably not appropriate to post local sports scores on your website. And that widget that pulls in the weather? Leave that to the Weather Channel.



    Learn more about UX

    5 Ways to Prepare Your Church Website For A New Ministry Year - iMinistries Blog
    Your Church Website's Reservoir of Goodwill (and 3 Ways to Keep it Full) - iMinistries Blog
    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondaySepSeptember12th2011 Your Church Website's Online Forms: Why Shorter is Better
    I read a lot of blogs and books on how to create great websites, but few have been so immediately impactful to me as Steve Krug's usability tome, Don't Make Me Think. It is often regarded as THE book on making websites easy for users to find what they want. Below is a nugget of truth from this book.
    Your website is almost exclusively a one-way conversation, from you to your website's visitors. Online forms are one way of breaking that pattern and allow you to learn more about who your users are and what they care about--Contact Us forms, newsletter sign-ups, event registrations, donation forms.

    The natural reaction to gaining the small insights forms provide is the desire to maximize the information you gain from site visitors, even asking for more information than you need. The result could be asking for too much, alienating the user, and coming up empty-handed.

    Three downsides to asking for more than you need

    Here's what Don't Make Me Think stated as the three biggest reasons not to ask for more information than you need on your church website's forms.

    1. It tends to keep you from getting real data.

    "As soon as people realize you're asking for more than you need, they feel completely justified in lying to you. I often tell my clients that e-mail addresses are like heroin to marketing people, so addictive that it doesn't strike them as odd that 10% of their subscribers happen to be named 'Barney Rubble.'" - Krug

    2. You get fewer completed forms.

    "The formula is simple: the less data you ask for, the more submissions you'll get. People tend to be in an enormous hurry on the web, and if the form looks even a little bit longer than they expect, many just won't bother." - Krug

    3. It makes you look bad.

    "People who really want your newsletter may just through hoops to get it, but make no mistake, it will diminish their impression of you while they're doing it. On the other hand, if you only ask for the info you need, you've established a relationship with them you can get more data later in subsequent exchanges." - Krug

    Three guidelines for your online forms

    From a user's point-of-view ...

    1. Only make me provide what you need to complete this transaction.

    You only need my name and e-mail address to send me a newsletter. So only ask for that.

    2. Don't ask for a lot of optional information.

    The sight of a lot of empty fields can be overwhelming. The less you ask me to fill in, the more I actually will.

    3. Show me the value of giving you my info.

    Tell me exactly what I'll get by registering. Show me a sample newsletter. Answer your Contact Us inquiries quickly. Explain where your user's donations are going.


    LEARN MORE ABOUT UX

    Your Church Website's Reservoir of Goodwill (and 3 Ways to Keep it Full) - iMinistries Blog
    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience - iMinistries Blog
    4 Questions You Should Answer on Your Church Website's Home Page - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayAugAugust29th2011 Your Church Website's Reservoir of Goodwill (and 3 Ways to Keep it Full)

    What is a website's Reservoir of Goodwill?

    "I've always found it useful to imagine that every time we enter a website, we start out with a reservoir of goodwill. Each problem we encounter on the site lowers the level of that reservoir."
    - Steve Krug, Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
    Your website visitors enter your site wanting something--your service times, your location, to contact you--and each obstacle they encounter decreases their experience satisfaction level.

    Here's an example of a very poor website experience, and how a Reservoir of Goodwill can be depleted.

    I want to visit your church for a service. So I come to your website looking for service times.
    I don't immediately see your service times on your home page. I'm slightly disappointed.
    Now I have to look through your menu for service times. There is no section with that name, so I have to figure out which section it would be in. I click About.
    On your About page, I don't see anything about service times. And the pages within this section only read Staff, History, and Beliefs. Which section is it in? I'm starting to get frustrated.
    I click the Locations link in your menu. This page displays your address and phone number, but I still don't see your service times. My patience is wearing thin.
    While some may have started with performing a search, I leave it as my last resort. "No results" come up when I submit "Service Times" in your search field. I'm almost ready to give up.
    I return to your Locations page, pick up the phone, and dial your number. You've just defeated the purpose of me visiting your website, so when I call to ask your office your service times, I'm going to be grumpy.

    Before your visitor even walks through your physical door, his attitude toward you has already been soured--just from one website visit.

    How to Keep a Full Reservoir of Goodwill

    Here are three easy ways to ensure your Reservoir remains full.

    1. "Keep the main things the main things."

    Create a top 5 list of questions your users to your church website to have answered, then make sure the answers are easy to find. These items should probably be in your top-level menu as their own sections. Adding banners or ads--or just displaying the answers--on your home page can go a long way toward keeping your Reservoir topped-off.

    Your top 5 user questions might look like this:
    • Who are you?
    • Where are you?
    • What time are your services?
    • What do you believe?
    • How can I interact with you?

    2. Write clear content

    Even if your content is easy to find, if it doesn't answer a user's questions, what good is it? Concentrate on making your text readable, simple, and very brief. Too much text on a page and a user might give up before they even try. Or if they do try and end up sifting through several paragraphs of filler just to find the one important sentence, you can see your Reservoir drop in a hurry.

    3. Make constant updates and improvements

    If you say something will be on your website, it should be there--front and center. There is nothing more depressing to a user than to be directed to a website for more information (from a brochure, flyer, or announcement) only to come up empty when getting there. Every event or news item shared within your bulletin or church should be advertised on your website.

    You should also keep an ear open to listeners whose Reservoir has run out while on your website. They should have insights on how you can improve your user experience and ensure your Reservoir stays full for other users. Create a short Contact form for feedback, or hold some quick user tests with a few staff members or family and fix the Reservoir-drainers they come across. (see point #5 on this post)

    LEARN MORE ABOUT USER EXPERIENCE (UX)

    3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience - iMinistries Blog
    4 Questions You Should Answer on Your Church Website's Home Page - iMinistries Blog
    5 Tips for Making Your Church Website Content More Readable - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayAugAugust22nd2011 3 Things to Remove to Improve Church Website User Experience When trying to improve your church website, it's important to remember why it exists. You didn't spend time and money creating a website for your enjoyment (at least, I hope that wasn't the reason). Your website is all about your users. Without them, there would be no point.

    This is why so much emphasis is put on User Experience (UX). If your users don't have a positive experience when using your website--trying to find information, giving, looking for serving opportunities--why would they ever come back? If your website is a reflection of your ministry, why would they ever visit you in person if their virtual perception of you is poor?

    So, Add More Stuff ... Right? Wrong.

    The initial reaction may be to add more "stuff" to your website in order to please more people. But adding more clutter is more likely to just get in the way of the important things. Here are three ways to improve your user experience ... by removing stuff.

    1. Remove extra content

    Website users don't read as much as they skim. Their attention spans are measured in seconds, not minutes. You should concentrate on trying to present the most sought-after information first. Start out by creating pages that answer these five questions:
    • Who are you?
    • Where are you?
    • What time are your services?
    • What do you believe?
    • How can I interact with you?
    Don't waste the user's time by writing introduction paragraphs on each of your sections. Get to the point. Use as few words as possible to explain everything on your site. Only after these questions are answered should you start adding news, events, blogs, photos, and other content to keep your users coming back.

    2. Remove user uncertainty

    Users want their questions answered, and now, without working for it. Make your menu simple and straightforward.

    As much as the Internet has been mythologized as the "Wild West," there are common practices for a reason. Users have been trained to look for specific word cues that will help them get where they want to go. Instead of calling your Contact page "Start the conversation," call it Contact, because that's what your user will be looking for. 

    Users should never wonder to themselves ...
    • "Where do I go to find out [question]?"
    • "What does that word mean?"
    • "Is this the right page?"

    3. Remove superfluous design

    Removing friction, or distraction, from a user's experience will go along way in making them want to return. Create a home page with simple, clean graphics that link to the content that answers the five user questions above ... but don't go overboard. Use these guidelines to help keep your website from looking like Las Vegas:
    • 3-5 home page banners
    • 2-3 ads in your side column
    • Only 1 of those ads rotates
    • Only use images if they help to understand a page's content
    • 1-2 inline images per page
    • Small social media icons
    Be more Google than Yahoo.


     
     LESS IS MORE ...

    ... MORE IS LESS

    LEARN MORE ABOUT UX

    Five Low-Hanging UX Tips - UX Magazine
    4 Questions You Should Answer on Church Website's Home Page - iMinistries Blog
    5 Tips for Making Your Church Website Content More Readable - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayAugAugust15th2011 5 Ways to Prepare Your Church Website For A New Ministry Year

    As end of summer nears, the inevitability of the launch of a new ministry becomes more of a reality. As your staff prepares for a new sermon series, giving campaign, or future big events, it's important that you ready your church website, and its content, for the renewed attention it is sure to r eceive.

    Here are five church website content tasks you should complete before embarking on a new ministry year.

    1. Check current content for accuracy

    A visitor to your website has a question about your ministry, so they send an e-mail to the address listed on your Contact Us page--info@yourchurch.org. Unfortunately, you recently changed your contact e-mail to questions@yourchurch.org. They instantly receive a bounce-back error message. Frustrated, they dial the phone number listed on your site, only to hear a "no longer in service" message, not knowing you changed your phone number a few weeks prior. They irately hang-up and give up. You've lost that person forever.

    Now you can see why it's so important that you audit your website's content with a fine-tooth comb. An out-dated website can say a lot about how organized and focused you are as a ministry. Here's a list of things to check to get you started.

    • Staff: Did your youth pastor leave? Remove him from your site.
    • Banners and graphics: Finish that series on Luke? Women's Conference over? Take down those old banners and ads.
    • Contact info: Make sure any person who wants to contact you can do so.
    • News and events: Is your newest event page from Easter? Time to make a change.
    • Home page: Freshen up your most-visited page by purging the old content and bringing in new.

    2. Hold a content manager summit

    If you divide up your content creation responsibilities by ministry, holding a big meeting to discuss the upcoming year can be good way to re-emphasize your content strategy. In these summits, you can also go over style guidelines, content do's and don'ts, field questions, and discuss the previous year's successes or failures.

    Having consistent dialogue with your content managers helps them feel empowered and involved in the creation process, and makes you look less like a dictator and more like a partner. When they feel empowered, they're more likely to put more effort into great content and thinking up creative, new ways to better connect with your website visitors.

    3. Create a content schedule

    After your summit, or during if you only have a few content managers, hold separate meetings with each content manager and/or ministry leader to prepare for the upcoming year. In these meetings, you should make a list of upcoming ministry events and the web needs for these events (like online registration, social media promotion, online ads, etc.). This is also a good time to meet with your blog writers and get them thinking about future blog series or entry topics.

    When you've met with all your ministries, you can begin to organize your tasks in calendar form, plug them into your project management tools, or whatever other way you plan ahead. You shouldn't be writing your Men's Conference event description the weekend before it happens, or scrambling to build a last-minute registration form. Make sure you and your content managers plan far enough ahead for website content to maximize its effectiveness.

    4. Set up event or campaign landing pages

    Chances are your church or ministry will have several big events (fall sermon series, fundraising campaigns, conferences, etc.) launching in the fall or winter. To make these events more successful on the web, you should set up landing pages to act as portals to vital information for each event.

    With these events comes promotional materials, like bulletin blurbs, postcards, posters, up-front announcements, and social media blitzes, all pointing people to your landing pages for more information, registration, and/or giving. Here are a few tips to make your paper and web promotions work together:
    • URL shortcuts: Set these up for your landing pages, like yourchurch.org/mensconference, to make them easier to get to.
    • Branding: Come up with a name, theme, logo, and color scheme and use on all promotional materials.
    • Home page: Post banners and ads on your home page that point to your landing pages.

    5. Do some user testing

    How would you ever know if your website is effective if you don't ask the people using it? Although many people think user testing is expensive, difficult, and time consuming, this isn't exactly true. You can hold easy user testing sessions every few months for little or no money. Here's how.

    1. Recruit a few friends or family members, with differing experience with your website. Three to five people is enough.
    2. Assign a few tasks for them to complete, like registering for an event, finding a particular info page, or contacting a ministry leader.
    3. Watch them complete these tasks, giving them no assistance.
    4. Record what you see, either by video or copious notes. What are they saying? What emotions are they going through?
    5. Analyze their actions. How can you avoid the bad and highlight the good?
    6. Change the problems that came up consistently.

    It's that easy. For more information on hosting your own user testing, I recommend reading Don't Make Me Think, by Steve Krug.

    LEARN MORE ABOUT MAKING A GREAT CHURCH WEBSITE

    5 Things To Do To Get Your Website Ready For Fall - ChurchWebsites.org
    Content Strategy for Church Websites - iMinistries Blog
    Applying 5 Leadership Principles to Your Church Website - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayAugAugust8th2011 5 Reasons Why Your Church Website Should Have a Blog In this digital age, one of the most important ways businesses, companies, and organizations connect with the world is through blogs on their websites. While corporate websites provide traditional information for web users (your typical About, Contact, and History pages), blogs provide more insight into an organization.

    In his book, Blog Wild: A Guide For Small Business Blogging, Andy Wibbels explains why small businesses should create and update a blog regularly in order to better connect with web surfers. His reasoning also applies to church websites, where potential visitors and church members have the same desire to more deeply connect with your ministry.

    Here are five reasons why your church or ministry website needs a blog.

    1. Blogs connect with a desirable audience.

    According to Wibbels, the type of person who reads blogs regularly are the people you probably most want to connect with.
    • Blog readers are web-savvy.
      The people reading your blog aren't afraid of the web. They like exploring websites, so they are more prone to have a long look around yours. And the longer they stay, the more informed they are.
    • Blog readers have passion and initiative.
      The people who run your food pantry or volunteer for children's ministry probably read your blog. If you need volunteers, a blog entry might be a good place to start.
    • Blog readers are seeking the next level in engagement.
      Obviously, if they are reading your blog they want a deeper level of connection with your ministry, and, ultimately, Jesus Christ. Intimate, compelling blog posts about past sermons, Bible verses, or personal experiences can help fill that need.

    2. Blogs provide fresh content.

    Web users might only visit your website once to find your address or learn about your mission, but they keep coming back when you have constantly updated content. Posting upcoming news and events, videos, and pictures are all good ways to produce new content--so are blogs.

    Every new blog entry is another reason for a web user to come back to your website and connect with your ministry. This is why setting up a regular blogging schedule (once a week; every Monday and Thursday; every day) and sticking to it is so important. Readers will come to expect and look forward to your entries. You don't want to let them down.

    3. Blogs are conversational.

    We've written before that your About Us page is your introduction to your web visitor--your digital handshake. If that's the case, your blog is the actual, two-way dialogue with your visitor. Blog entries begin with you writing you thoughts on a topic, then allow for users to comment. Blogs give your visitors a voice and empowerment. This is why entries should primarily be informal, welcoming, and non-intimidating.

    4. Blogs are a gateway to your website's other content.

    In most blog entries, you should try to find a way to reference other content on your website. Since users will continually come back to read your blog, linking them to more information is a good way to engage them further. Here are some ways partner information:
    • include cross-links to other, similar blog entries
    • add highlights or right column links to news or events
    • write a short "Have questions? Contact us ..." sentence at the bottom of each entry and link to your contact form
    • include a bio of your writer with each entry

    5. Google loves Blogs

    While your readers might express their enjoyment in your blog by return visits and posting comments, search engines show their blog-love by boosting your search rankings. Google especially gives special treatment to blogs. Here's why ...
    • Frequent updates:
      Because fresh content often equals more visits (see #2) and better website management, search engines often weight fresh content as more important.

    • Linked and networked:
      Blogs are likely to have more outgoing and incoming links through cross-linking and visitor comments. This generally means more people like these sites, so these links significantly effect page rankings.

    • Archived and organized:
      Because of the dated entry cataloging system, blogs have have a more "scan-friendly" behind-the-scenes architecture, which makes them more readable to search engines.

    Blogs are built into each iMinistries website

    Building a church website with a blog is easy with iMinistries. Each iMinistries church website comes with the ability to add site-wide or ministry-specific blogs--with no limitations as to how many or number of entries.

    LEARN MORE

    Cross-Linking: Search Engines and Website Visitors Love It - iMinistries Blog
    Connecting Through Your Website: Connecting is all About Others - iMinistries Blog
    Connecting Through Your Website: Connecting Goes Beyond Words - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayJulJuly25th2011 Pastor Jeremy Hill: Church Websites Get Your People Involved [Video]
    byBryan Young Tagged Church Communications 0 comments Add comment
    Pastor Jeremy Hill switched back to iMinistries from another church website firm and only has good things to say about his new website's capabilities. In the video below, he explains how his new website keeps his church members at Harvest Bible Chapel - Jupiter informed as to what his ministries are doing and how they can get involved.



    Video Transcript

    "One of the things we've seen since we switched to iMinistries is that it's given us a really good opportunity to promote our ministries and keep our people connected. But at the same time, on the back side of it, it gives us really good usability so that we can have a lot of our volunteers, with minimal knowledge, essentially take what we're doing as a ministry and get that to our people in a way that lets them know what's going on and how they can get involved. So that's been a huge part of how we've been using the website that we have.

    Another aspect that's been important to us is the value that we're getting for the cost that we're paying. We're able to do so much more with the website that we've gotten from iMinistries than we have with other web firms and that's been huge to us as a smaller church.
    "


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    MonMondayJulJuly18th2011 Pastor Brian Edwards: Your Church Website Connects People to God, Wherever They Are [Video]
    byBryan Young Tagged Church Communications 0 comments Add comment
    Pastor Brian Edwards recently partnered with iMinistries to create a website for Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Danville, Virginia. In the video below, he explains how his church website has been used to connect people all over the world, including a member of his church deployed overseas, to the powerful message of God's saving grace.



    Video Transcript

    "A Blessed Hope knew we needed a website, however we didn't know where to go to find the right website for us. Thankfully, in God's Providence, he led us to iMinistries, and the guys there worked with us so well. They helped us develop our website in an inexpensive way, which, at the time, was very important to us. However, the website still had a very high-quality look.

    We knew we were glad to have the website, we just didn't know how God was going to use it. Since that time, thankfully, we have found out that there are people from all over the world who are finding Blessed Hope. By finding Blessed Hope, they're hearing our teaching, and through our teaching, they are learning about God, His Word, and His Son Jesus Christ.

    The wonderful thing we learned recently was a young man from our church was deployed in Afghanistan. He had to leave behind a wife and three children. So much of his life was uprooted and overturned. Yet, while he was in Afghanistan, because of the website iMinistries provided for us, he was able to stay connected to his church. And, without access to a church, through the website he was able to stay connected to God.

    We are so thankful for that and we just love the guys at iMinistries, and would highly, highly recommend you investigate their ministry for your church.
    "


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    MonMondayJulJuly11th2011 4 Questions You Should Answer on Your Church Website's Home Page
    byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    I read a lot of blogs and books on how to create great websites, but few have been so immediately impactful to me as Steve Krug's usability tome, Don't Make Me Think. It is often regarded as THE book on making websites easy for users to find what they want. Below is a nugget of truth from this book.

    When users come to your home page, they often come wanting four specific questions answered. It's your job as web administrator to make sure these questions are answered immediately, and without creating other questions in the user's mind, or risk losing the visitor to frustration. Here are the four questions and how best to answer them.

    What is this?

    Chances are, your church website visitors are finding you through a search engine. (A study in 2008 showed that over 60% of people find organizations and businesses through the Internet. And that was 2008!) So they probably landed on your website by searching for churches or ministries that are like you. But you only have a few seconds to convince them you are what they are looking for!

    Your home page should tell new visitors who you are and what you're about, and there are several places you can utilize for this purpose. Here are two:

    • Your logo
      The image you associate with your ministry was chosen for a reason--to show others what you stand for. If it's an open Bible or a fruitful tree, people will get an idea as to what you're about.

    • Your tagline
      Krug says it best: "Taglines are a very efficient way to get your message across, because they're the one place on the page where users most expect to find a concise statement of the site's purpose."

    What do they have here?

    Now that users know what the site is, they want to know what kind of stuff your website has. This also applies to what your ministry does. Posting upcoming events, recent news, and prominently displaying links to your About and We Believe pages are the most effective ways of showing visitors what you do. Your website navigation should be clear as to what your website has and where users can go to find what they want.

    What can I do here?

    Websites can be great tools used for ministry. Blog posts, sermon podcasts, videos of God's work through your ministry and in people's lives, stories, photos of your ministry at work--these are all effective ways of spreading the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who haven't heard. Advertise these features on your home page banners and ads to show your visitors what they can see and do on your website.

    Why should I be here--and not somewhere else?

    Does your church emphasize missions or church planting? Small groups or service? Prayer or Bible teaching? All of these things? Find a way to express why your website visitor should become a flesh-and-blood visitor. Try not to think about it as competing against other churches, but rather competing against not visiting a church at all.

    iMinistries CMS makes great usability a breeze

    Utilizing a free or custom skin from iMinistries makes it easy for your home page to answer all four questions asked by new visitors.

    • Easily place your logo and tagline into the design of your site.
    • Build custom banners and ads with our Rotator feature.
    • Posting news, events, videos, blog posts, on your home page is a snap with our Widget feature.
    • Edit your menu yourself to make it easy for users to find what they want.


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    MonMondayJulJuly4th2011 What Do 76% of Visitors Want From Your Church Website?
    byBryan Young Tagged User Experience (UX) 0 comments Add comment

    When asked the most important factor in website design, 76% of people said "the website makes it easy for me to find what I want."

    According to research done by Hubspot, website visitors care most about finding information fast and easily--more so than how the website looks or if the experience is memorable. So how should this information influence your church website's design? Here are three ways to make sure your visitors get the information they want.

    Content is King

    Before you start posting content on your church website, it is important to create a content strategy and ask yourself some questions about your visitors.
    • What do they want to know about my church or ministry?
    • What do I want them to know?
    • What would make them want to come back to my website?
    Start a list of pages or types of content visitors will definitely want on your website. These usually consist of your location, your mission and values, the latest news and events, and your contact information. As you develop your list of desired content, keep asking yourself if the content helps answer the questions above. If it doesn't, maybe it shouldn't be on your website.

    Finding Your Content: Think Like a User

    After you've determined what content visitors want, you should concentrate on making that content findable. A helpful exercise is to write out each page on your website on a Post-it note. Determine which pages include the most popular information and make them your top-level items. Try to organize each note under those top-level pages like About, News, Contact, and Location.

    Now put yourself in your visitors' shoes--does this navigation make sense? Is it easy to find information as it's constructed? Ask someone not familiar with your website to find specific information. If they get frustrated or confused, reorganize your menu.

    Here are a few other ways to help your visitors find the information they want:
    • post ads and banners on your site that link to important pages
    • embed links in your pages to connect users to other content on your site
    • do regular content audits to make sure information is relevant and up-to-date

    Visual Design: K.I.S.S.

    Authors don't design the cover before they write a book. In the same way, you shouldn't pour all your energy in a website's design before determining its content. Only 10% of website users say that visual design is most important, but many website builders concentrate solely on making a website "look good." How can we maintain a balance between the two?

    1. Simple is attractive.
    Don't overcrowd your website with tons of ads, banners, links, and graphics. Just like we start to ignore commercials and billboards if we are oversaturated, so do your website visitors. Use white space and clean design to emphasize the information that most important.

    2. Form follows function.
    Graphics and banners are great, but only if they're useful. If they don't provide information or link to important content, you're better off without them.

    3. Familiar is good.
    A lot of how the Internet works is learned by users. Websites generally follow common practices that users pick up on as they visit different sites. You can use this to your advantage. For example, instead of creating a giant "Join us on Facebook" banner, you can post a simple Facebook icon on your pages. Little things like this (and utilizing common navigation principles) help you avoid clutter and keep your design looking good.

    LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC

    Content Strategy for Church Websites - iMinistries Blog
    Cross-Linking: Search Engines and Website Visitors Love It - iMinistries Blog
    Is Your Church Website Visitor-Focused? - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayJunJune6th2011 4 Questions Donors Want Answered Before They Give on Your Ministry Website
    byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    According to a website usability study by Jakob Nielsen, potential donors consistently want the same questions answered when determining whether or not they will give online. In most cases, if website visitors have to look hard to answer these questions, they become frustrated and may be swayed not to give.

    Considering that nonprofits receive around 10% of donations online, and estimates say they'll constitute the majority of donations by 2020, websites should be as donor-friendly as possible. Here are the three questions donors want answered before they give and how you can answer them.

    1. What are you trying to achieve?

    Every website visitor wants to know who you are and what you value. This is why the About page is consistently the second most visited page on any website (behind the home page). Make it easy for potential donors to determine what you value and why you exist.
    • Write a brief description of who you are on your home page, using keywords to get your point across.
    • Create a page that outlines your mission, your beliefs, and your goals (or a separate page for each).
    • Use graphics or ads to direct people to these pages.
    • Write news stories or blogs showing what your ministry has done and what its doing.

    2. How do you use donations?

    Detailing what donations are used for is a great way to gain credibility with potential donors. Create a pie chart or list detailing what percentage of donations go to operating costs, specific aspects of ministry, staffing, and other costs. Donors' minds will be set at ease once they learn where their money goes and will be more likely to contribute.

    3. How can I give?

    It is important to explain, in clear and concise writing, the different ways in which they can give. On websites where users left without giving, 53% were frustrated with content--unclear writing, missing information or confusing terms.

    Without using jargon or obscure language, make sure you cover these topics (if you accept these types of donations):
    • Automatic, recurring giving (which encourages more giving over time)
    • Non-monetary donations
    • Giving in wills
    • Giving by check or money order, through the mail
    • Giving over the phone

    4. Where do I give?

    Surprisingly, Nielsen's study found that donors couldn't find where to give on 17% of the websites used. Using a simplistic home page design with minimal banners, ads, and graphics is one way to avoid this problem. To avoid "banner blindness," limit your graphics to only your key calls-to-action. And, of course, make "Give" or "Donate" clear in your navigation.

    A CMS, like iMinistries, can help your online giving

    By using the features that come built into each iMinistries website, you can take steps toward improving your online giving.
    • Integrated giving forms: accept online donations from credit and debit cards with your brand front-and-center
    • Ads and banners: post graphics to make your calls to action more compelling
    • PayPal: now you can accept donations from this provider

    LEARN MORE ABOUT ONLINE GIVING

    4 Calls to Action Your Church Website Should Have - iMinistries Blog
    4 Online Giving Study Findings To Apply To Your Church Website - iMinistries Blog
    Donation Usability: Increasing Online Giving to Non-Profits and Charities - UseIt.com

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    MonMondayMayMay30th2011 4 Reasons Your Church Website Should Tell Your Story
    byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    One of your church website's primary goals should be to explain who you are and what you strive to do. Most websites simply create a few pages in their About Us section to achieve this goal, writing out their mission and beliefs in lists or bullets. This can be an effective way of telling your values, but a better way is to show your values at work in the lives of people?

    Every thriving ministry has hundreds, if not thousands, of stories about changed lives, including the story of how your church came to be. Its these stories that inspire website users to become church visitors and encourage regular attenders to serve and take the next step in their relationships with Christ. Here are four other reasons you should tell these stories on your church website.


    WHY YOU SHOULD SHARE YOUR STORY



    1. Stories attract readers.

    Compelling, fresh content that is consistently updated is the best way to attract new website visitors, and keep them coming back. Intriguing stories interest all kinds of people--young and old, men and women, from all backgrounds. Most people can relate to the story of a person who spent their life looking for something, then found that something in Christ. What a great way to explain the gospel.

    2. Stories are the best way to show your ministry at work.

    Which do you think has more impact?
    A. Saying that you strive to show Christ to those who do not know him.
    B. A video showing a person who has found Christ through your ministry.

    Easy question, right?



    3. Stories are ready-made content.

    Everyone can tell a story. It takes no special education or extreme skill to recall a series of events. This is why your ministry's stories are perfect for your website--anyone can write them down, post them, and they are ready to encourage.

    4. Stories are sharable.

    A great story is one that gets told over and over. The Internet is perfect for great stories because it's so easy to spread content from person to person (Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, instant messaging). I'm sure you've been sent funny YouTube videos that you pass on to your friends. Shouldn't a story of how the faithful prayer of a Christian wife saved a lost husband likewise be spread?


    HOW TO SHARE YOUR STORY


    • Blogs: Write a series of stories about changed lives.
    • News articles: Recap a ministry event where people learned about Christ.
    • Videos: Interview a person who made it through a tough circumstance with the help of God.
    • Photo albums: Let images tell your ministry's history and how God has blessed it through the years.

    LEARN MORE ABOUT SHARING YOUR STORY


    Applying 5 Leadership Principles to Your Church Website - iMinistries Blog
    Telling Your Nonprofits' Story is Really Important - TechSoup Blog

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    MonMondayMayMay23rd2011 4 Calls to Action Your Church Website Should Have
    byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

    Your church website is more than just pretty graphics and flowery text. It should be a catalyst for action. When visitors land on your home page, they should be prompted to do something. We call these prompts "calls to action."

    Calls to action can come in many forms, most commonly graphic banners, ads, and buttons, and hyperlinked text. Often, calls to action will direct users to other pages on your website where they will complete a web-based task. Sometimes it will lead to action off the computer. Here are the four calls to action every website should include.

    1. Learn

    The key to every website is to teach visitors who you are and what you do. For churches and ministries, explaining how others can get involved is equally crucial.

    One of the most visited pages on any church website is its About section, where your mission, beliefs, and individual ministries are detailed. Direct visitors here immediately by displaying a graphic on your home page banner or making it prominent in your menu navigation. This is the one area of your website people might actually read (instead of skim), so make sure every word is carefully chosen.

    2. Visit

    A church website's ultimate goal should be to encourage users to physically visit your ministry. You can do this by making your service times and address easy to find and writing with a welcoming tone on your Location page. Make it even easier on potential guests by including a Google map, directions, and a picture of your church.

    3. Contact

    Plaster your phone number, address, and e-mail address in as many places as you can on your website--your footer, Contact Us page, Location page, We Believe section, and any other page that might provoke questions. Creating a contact form also encourages interaction. How available you are shows how much you care (or don't care) about your visitors.

    4. Give

    Another big reason people visit church websites is to donate. Many times, giving is a spontaneous, emotionally-driven action, so your website should not hinder someone from satisfying that urgent desire. Make it easy for visitors to find your giving page and create an enjoyable giving experience with easy-to-complete forms.

    iMinistries Websites Make it Easy to Include Calls to Action

    With features like customizable rotating banners, ads and highlights on every page, build your own menu navigation, and ready-made free skins, calls to action come built in to your church website.

    Learn more about calls to action

    "Is Your Home Page Attractive?" Series - iMinistries Blog
    About Us: Beginning the Conversation - iMinistries Blog
    The Five Elements of a Strong Call to Action - Nonprofit Marketing Blog


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    MonMondayMayMay16th2011 5 Tips for Making Your Church Website Content More Readable
    byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment
    Ever typed in a website's URL, clicked to the About page, and was presented a giant, novel-sized paragraph? I bet you muttered "forget it" and exited the page without reading a word.

    The attention spans of website visitors continues to nose-dive as they are increasingly bombarded with information--ads, links, Flash presentations, videos, and images. Making your web content as stripped down and instantly readable as possible is a necessity.

    Website users don't read--they scan. You have seconds to keep a visitor's attention before they leave your website forever, so you must optimize your pages' text for instant consumption. 

    Here are five ways to maximize your content's potential and keep visitors on your site.


    Avoid jargon.


    Most website visitors come to your site to learn more about you. For a great deal of those visitors, your website is their first experience with you. If you use "insider" phrases and words, your visitor could get confused and leave out of frustration.

    Churches are especially guilty of using terms that outsiders have no clue of their meaning. Here are a few to avoid and some alternatives to use instead.

    Don't Use Use Instead
    "Reach the lost and dying" Preach the message of Jesus to those who don't know Him.
    "Covet your prayers" Please pray for ...
    "Stumble" or "fall" Sin or disobey God
    "Food, fun, and fellowship" Meet together; socialize; celebrate; spend time with


    Use short sentences.


    To make your pages easier to understand, keep your sentences from being too complicated--the shorter, the better.
    • Use the old rule for adjectives: "when in doubt, take it out."
    • Try seperating compound sentences in two.
    • Avoid big words and complicated ideas.
    • Read a lot of Hemingway. He did it best.

    Use headers, bullet points, text styles, and lists.


    These devices make it easier for visitors seeking specific information to scan your pages. If your About page contains your location, directions, and service times, using a header to separate these sections is a good way to please those only looking for your address.

    Bullet points, text styles (bold, italics, all caps), and lists can be used to highlight important content or separate examples from your other content (see the section above as an example). All of these elements come together to turn words into pictures.


    Write at an elementary grade reading level.


    See your website visitor. He sees your big words. See him run.

    Don't introduce your We Believe section with a 12 paragraph explanation of your views on dispensationalism. And don't follow that up with a detailed section on Harmartiology. K.I.S.S.

    Visitors want to know what you believe, what you value, and what you strive to accomplish, without having to grab a dictionary.


    Write in chunks.


    Just like short sentences make text easier to digest, short paragraphs do the same. Try to limit your paragraphs to three sentences. The white space between paragraphs will provide a less intimidating environment to page visitors.

    They'll be more inclined to read a page that seems to have less content, even if it really doesn't. The shorter paragraphs "Jedi mind trick" them into thinking they'll have to read less.


    LEARN MORE ABOUT READABLE CONTENT


    Writing for the Web - iMinistries Blogs
    How Users Read on the Web - Nielson Study
    4 Guidelines for Readable Web Content - Marketing Tech Blog

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    MonMondayMayMay2nd2011 10 Mistakes Not to Make on Your Church Website
    byBryan Young Tagged No tags 1 comments Add comment

    Here are the most common mistakes made by church websites. Make sure you don't make them.


    1. Your blog, news, and events are not up-to-date.

    This is the biggest no-no for obvious reasons. No one comes to your church website to read news from last year. They want to see what is going on now. Having an empty Upcoming Events page or a blog that you haven't bothered to update gives a poor first impression to visitors. How you care for your website reflects how you care for your people.

    2. Leave out a Our Beliefs or Our Mission page.

    Website visitors don't often stop to read entire pages. But they do read your Beliefs or Mission page, carefully and in its entirety, and often seek it out first. These pages should be written with clarity and with great priority. It would be a grave error to omit these sections.

    3. Write a "Welcome to our website" paragraph on your home page.

    In the past, website builders would include an "introduction" section on every home page. Because each of these paragraphs was largely the same, generic stuff, people just ignore these sections now. Your home page is prime real estate. You can't afford to waste space on something no one reads.

    4. Design is outdated or poorly executed.

    Even though some churches can still pull it off, the "distressed" look is quickly becoming passe. The new trend in website design is clean and simple--lots of empty space and sans serif fonts. Whatever design you go with, consistency is key ...
    • graphics
    • thumbnails
    • color scheme
    • logo usage

    5. Forget location and directions to your ministry.

    How can people visit your church or ministry if you neglect to tell them where you are? Displaying your address, directions, and an embedded Google map ensure that your website visitors can find you.

    6. Not displaying your contact info on the home page.

    Sometimes a visitor will come to your website with a question they need answered. How will they ever ask it if you they can't find your e-mail address or telephone number? Placing on your vital information on your home page (in your footer is a great place), makes it easy for visitors contact you.

    7. Your Contact Us page doesn't include every way to do so.

    You probably have many options for how someone can reach you. Make sure you show every way on your Contact Us page. Cover all your bases by displaying:
    • e-mail address
    • telephone number
    • links to your Facebook page and Twitter account
    • mailing address

    8. Not incorporating your social media.

    If you don't advertise your social media activity on your website, they'll never know about it. Keep your website visitors informed of the latest developments in your church and ministry by linking to your Facebook page, your YouTube videos, and embedding your Twitter feed on your home page.

    9. Leave off a way to donate or volunteer.

    Getting people involved in your church or ministry should be one of the goals of your website. Donations and volunteers are the lifeblood of ministries, so your site should find a way to accept online gifts and recruit willing servers. (Online donations made easy by iMinistries).

    10. Too little or too many links or ads.

    Finding the right balance between not promoting other pages on your website and overloading a new visitor is not an easy task. The magic range is 3 to 5.
    • 3 to 5 Calls to action (graphics or ads) on your home page
    • 3 to 5 Website banners
    • 3 to 5 Cross-links on each page (links to other pages on your site)

    LEARN MORE ABOUT IMPROVING YOUR WEBSITE

    5 Ways to Improve Your Church Website, Gordon Ramsay Style - iMinistries blog
    Is Your Church Website Visitor-Focused? - iMinistries blog

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    MonMondayAprApril25th2011 Applying 5 Leadership Principles to Your Church Website

    Inspiration can come from the most unexpected sources sometimes. My small group is currently studying R. Kent Hughes's insightful book, Disciplines of A Godly Man. In his chapter on the Discipline of Leadership, Hughes describes five requirements of a leader, and as I read through these five characteristics I couldn't help but notice that these traits are also representative of great church websites.

    As we walk through these attributes, ask yourself if your church website could be described using these qualities.


    1. Vision


    "Leadership must have a dream, a vision, a mental image, a precise goal of what is to be accomplished."
    - pg. 187

    Before you begin building your church website, you must have a definitive strategy--a list of goals you want your website to achieve. To develop your website strategy, start by asking yourself these questions:

    • What is the purpose of my church website?
    • What do I want my church website to do? (What features should it have?)
    • What is my budget (both money and time)?

    After you have these answers, you can begin to build your website and develop your website's content.


    2. Effective Communication


    "A leader must not only have a dream, he must be able to communicate it." - pg. 187

    The best way to produce content that will help you reach your website's goals is to first establish a content strategy. A solid content strategy will tell you what your website should say, how it should say it, and who will say it, to make it most effective.

    Once you have a content strategy, work hard to make your writing clear, concise, and pleasing to the eye, so your church website visitors will want to read your content.


    3. Governance


    "Good leaders ... delegate and orchestrate." - pg. 187

    Finding and building capable content creators is important to keeping your church website filled with fresh, relevant content. New content is what keeps visitors coming back to your site and is a big influence on your search engine rankings. As the project lead or website manager, it is key that you can farm out some of the work it takes to keep your website chugging along.

    Here are three things that can help you delegate responsibility:

    • Content managers: let your individual ministry leaders control the content in their section (How can iMinistries' CMS help?)
    • Content creators: volunteers or admins with strong writing skills are essential for successful content
    • Content calendar: schedule your blog posts, news articles, and other new content to ensure consistent updates

    4. Credibility (Show What You Say)


    "Good leaders lead by demonstration." - pg. 187

    As important as it is to communicate your church or ministry's mission and beliefs on your website, it is just as important to show your ministry's mission at work.

    • Use news articles to tell stories of lives effected by your church or ministry.
    • Create blog entries to update visitors on ministry projects let them interact with you.
    • Post pictures and videos of your ministry helping others.

    5. Persistence


    "Good leaders are determined." - pg. 188

    In order for your church website to be successful, it needs constant attention. A bland website with static content is useless, so you must be willing to put in the time it takes to keep making your website better. There are many free tools, like Google Analytics or Website Grader, that can help you continually improve your website.

    Three keys to a progressive church website

    • Content updates: To get new and returning visitors, this is crucial
    • Content evaluation: What content gets the most feedback? The most web traffic? What do you do well?
    • Being in-the-know: Read everything you can about making a better website from the people who have done it, then apply this knowledge to your website

    READ MORE

    Content Strategy for Church Websites - iMinistries Blog
    Online Giving Study Findings To Apply To Your Church Website - iMinistries Blog
    5 Ways to Improve Your Church Website, Gordon Ramsay Style - iMinistries Blog

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    MonMondayAprApril18th2011 3 Bad Website Consultant Mistakes That iMinistries Doesn't Make
    byBryan Young Tagged Company News 0 comments Add comment

    Over at Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com, Kivi Leroux Miller frustratingly describes how "bad" web consultants can limit what their clients can accomplish by making their websites hard to update.

    At iMinistries, we pride ourselves on not making those mistakes. Our church CMS is easy to update, our help system is comprehensive, and our church websites are flexible and well-designed.

    Here are the three biggest mistakes web consultants make and how iMinistries stacks up.

    Mistake 1: Not using a standard content management system.

    "Nonprofit staff should be able to login to a content management system (CMS) to make simple changes to the text and graphics on their own sites." - Nonprofit Marketing Guide

    iMinistries' church CMS is built into each one of its websites. Your church or ministry staff can log in at any time and add, remove, or edit content as you see fit. You can even determine who can manage specific sections of content on your website. With an iMinistries website, you have 100% control over what your site says and how it looks.

    "Adding a new page of content, or editing an existing one, should be as simple as writing an email — which demands that consultants use content management systems." - NMG

     Not only is iMinistries' church CMS built in, it is easy to use. Adding a page is as easy as creating a new document in Microsoft Word. If you can do that, you can create your own website.

    Mistake 2: Not explaining how to use the content management system.

    "I do ... believe that web consultants are obligated to [provide] some basic training." - NMG

     Each iMinistries website is equipped with "Beginner Mode," an interactive, step-by-step tour of your new website, its many features, and how to update its content.

    iMinistries also provides each new client with online written documentation as well as a growing library of video tutorials. These instructional videos provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to build and maintain your website. If you are not able to find the answer to your questions, you can also ask for assistance through our support website.

    "I think good consultants should ... [help] the nonprofit learn the difference between what they should and can do themselves and what should be outsourced." - NMG

     At iMinistries, we consider ourselves Web experts, and we understand some of our clients don't have that same confidence. That is why we offer extra services to help you make your church website the best it can be.

    Mistake 3: Not creating adequate space in the design for timely updates.

    "I’ve seen many nonprofit website home pages that look perfectly lovely, and yet are communications disasters ... Because there is very little space in which the nonprofit can make timely changes." - NMG

     One of our favorite integrated features is Rotator, a large rotating header that displays banner images which you can link to news, events, blogs, and any other page on your website. As with anything on iMinistries' ministry websites, Rotator is easily updatable and allows for complete customization.

    "Give your nonprofit clients at least several paragraphs worth of text they can update, especially in the key locations on the home page. Give them space where they can upload photos or embed videos — and where those can be changed easily over time without having to rely on you or another consultant." - NMG

    With exception to the content built into the website's skin, every page, image, link, banner, and ad is determined by the site administrator. With an iMinistries church website, you create your content, you update your pages, and you don't have to rely on a "bad" web consultant.

    Free Trial

    We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

    Create Your Free Trial Account
    MonMondayAprApril11th2011 4 Online Giving Study Findings To Apply To Your Church Website
    byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment
    Network for Good, the online giving website for nonprofit organizations, recently conducted a study of their online donations, and the resulting data can be very useful for ministries seeking donations on their websites.

    From 2003-2009, the donor and volunteer recruiting website for nonprofits received over $381 million in donations from over 3.6 million individual gifts. Looking primarily at the online giving process, they came to some conclusions (and varified some previous theories) with the data they collected.

    Here are the four biggest truths and how you can apply them to your church or ministry website.

    Truth #1: Relationships influence giving

    The act of donating money is highly emotion-driven, so donors naturally want to feel a connection to the ministry they give to. People want to know they are supporting a cause or mission, not just a cold website or faceless organization. Your ministry or church website has to go beyond just providing a place for a monetary transaction. It has to fortify a relationship.

    Here are a few ways to make sure your website connects with donors:
    • Make your mission clear
      Provide your users a page that explains your ministry values, beliefs, and goals. Make it simple to understand, but try to appeal to your readers at an emotional level.

    • Use imagery and stories to promote your cause
      Pictures and stories of the people your ministry has helped or wants to help can give a face to your ministry's mission. People want to know they're giving to other people, not just an organization.

    • Brand your giving pages
      Loyalty is very important for online donors. This study showed donors give 66.7% more on clearly-branded giving pages.

    Truth #2: The online giving experience can help or hurt donations

    It makes sense that the relationship between donor and recipient is significantly impacted by the giving process. If a donor's giving experience is frustrating, difficult to understand, or too long, they may be less likely to give online again. And, transversely, if the giving experience is easy and emotionally fulfilling, donors may be more likely to return.

    How can you make the giving experience more positive?
    • Make it obvious
      Big "Donate Now" button; "Giving" in your navigation

    • Make it quick and easy
      If you have 12 ways to give, a page that describes each in 1-2 sentences is less overwhelming than explaining each completely on one page. Also, having an 8-part form to slog through is not overly enjoyable.

    • Make it satisfying
      After donors click "submit," make sure your "thank you" page expresses your appreciation for their donation. Let them feel like an important partner in accomplishing your mission.
    "The more intimate and emotionally coherent the giving experience, the stronger the relationship between donor and nonprofit appears to be. Small improvements to the online experience can make a big difference in donations." --Network for Good Online Giving Study

      Truth #3: Recurring giving encourages more giving over time

      It is easier for donors to commit once to a long-term, repeating gift than it is for them to visit your website every month for one-time donations. Giving users this option will accomplish two goals for you:
      • It will increase overall giving, simply from convenience
      • It will help build a positive relationship with your donors
      Monthly recurring giving is the most popular option, but giving donors more choices (bimonthly, weekly, quarterly) can't hurt.

      Truth #4: More giving occurs during work hours, in December, and after big disasters

      Being prepared for year-end giving is essential for any ministry or church seeking online donations from donors they have established relationships with, while large disasters give more opportunities for new donors.

      Creating a giving campaign for December can never go wrong, either to remind donors to fulfill giving commitments or to notify donors of your end-of-year need. And special campaigns centered around your ministry's response to a disaster can make you more visible to donors who may not normally give to your mission.

      Utilizing your website and e-newsletters for these campaigns can help you achieve your giving goals. Since most donations occur on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., e-newsletters would be more effective if sent during these times.

      A CMS, like iMinistries, can help your online giving

      By using the features that come built into each iMinistries website, you can take steps toward improving your online giving.
      • Integrated giving forms: accept online donations from credit and debit cards with your brand front-and-center
      • Ads and banners: post graphics to make your calls to action more compelling
      • PayPal: now you can accept donations from this provider

        Free Trial

        Want to see how our features can help increase online giving? Sign up for a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

        Create Your Free Trial Account
        MonMondayMarMarch28th2011 5 Ways to Boost Your Church Website Grade
        byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment
        A great free tool to gauge the effectiveness of your church or ministry is Website Grader, from the online marketing geniuses at Hubspot. Website Grader scans your website for ways in which you attract visitors and search engines.

        Hubspot's focus is all about getting people to visit your website, and to do so regularly. It does not evaluate the quality of your website's content, just its ability to attract Web traffic (both organically and through search engines).

        Here are five ways you can improve your website grade, and attract more visitors to your ministry website.

        1. Create a Blog and Post Regularly

        The easiest way to make your website more interactive is to start a blog and update it regularly.

        Blogs help your website two big ways:
        • Your posts give users a reason to visit repeatedly and makes you more accessible.
          It lets you communicate to your site visitors by creating a two-way dialogue.

        • Blogs feed search engines constant updates, which aids your search engine rankings

        2. Improve Your Metadata

        Metadata works behind the scenes to tell search engines and those using them about your website content.

        Metadata is usually broken down into three segments:
        • Search descriptions summarize the content on each of your website pages. Just like a synopsis on the back of a book, your search description sells your pages to searchers.

        • Keywords the are words or phrases used most by the people looking for your site on search engines. Choose these keywords carefully to make sure your website comes up at the top of searches.

        • Browser titles explain who your website represents and what each page contains. Browser titles carry a lot of weight with search engines, so strategically placing keywords in them is a great way to boost your search rankings.
        iMinistries makes it easy to set metadata site-wide and page-by-page with integrated SEO tabs on each content item.

        3. Add Pages

        People love information. Search engines love information. The more pages you have on your website, the more information you have. Pretty easy, right?

        The easiest ways to fill your website with useful pages is to consistently update your blog and by adding news and events. When search engines scan your website, they still find archived content, so just because news or events may expire, don't delete them.

        4. Incorporate Your Social Media

        Since website visitors and search engines love new, shiny things (who doesn't), give them constant updates by displaying your Twitter feed, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and any other social media your ministry or church regularly engages.

        By promoting your social media outlets on your websites, you'll get more followers, increase your website visitors, and raise your website grade.

        5. Get Other Sites to Link To You

        As you start pumping out quality blog posts, interesting news and events, and promoting your social media, people across the Web should start linking to you. Getting other websites to link to you tells search engines that you are a place worth checking out, so they'll push you up their search rankings.

        Having a more visited website link to your content is like receiving a positive review--a thumbs up. The more thumbs up you get, and the more important those giving them, the more search engines will like you.

        LEARN MORE ABOUT IMPROVING YOUR WEBSITE GRADE

        Improving Search Results Case Study - iMinistries Blog
        Keyword Phrase Strategy's Importance to SEO - iMinistries Blog
        Is Your Website Visitor-Focused? - iMinistries Blog

        Free Trial

        The best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

        Create Your Free Trial Account
        MonMondayMarMarch14th2011 Content Strategy for Church Websites

        What is Content Strategy and Why Should I Care?

        Content Strategy is becoming more and more popular among web professionals--both the idea and the practice. So much focus has gone into design, user experience, and techniques of getting people to websites that the reason people come to websites can get lost. Of course, I'm talking about the content, itself.  
        "Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content." Kristina Halvorson
        Just like you wouldn't begin a sermon without first coming up with a topic, researching, and planning, you shouldn't do the same with the content on your website. Everything successful, from businesses, to books, to websites, begins with goals and figures out the best way to achieve them.

        In order for your ministry website's content to do what you want it to do (increase ministry visitors, volunteers, dialogue), you must have a strategy and then carry out your strategy. Here's a simplified process for developing that strategy.

        1. Develop Goals (Analyze)

        Before you start typing, ask yourself some questions about the visitors to your church website.
        • What do they want to know about my church or ministry?
        • What do I want them to know?
        • What would make them want to come back to my website?
        Start a list of pages or types of content you must have on your site. These usually consist of News, Events, About, and Contact. As you develop your list of desired content, keep asking yourself if the content helps answer the questions above. If it doesn't, maybe it shouldn't be on your website.

        2. Create Your Content (Collect)

        Now that you have your list of pages or desired content, start writing. It is important for you content to be clear, simple, easy to read, and easy on the eyes, so if you aren't skilled as a writer, find someone who is, or read through our previous blogs on Writing for the Web.

        To get people to regularly visit your website, you'll need to regularly update it with interesting content. Now is the time to figure out what this content is, where it is coming from, and who will keep content creators accountable for this task. It might be helpful to create a content creation calendar.

        3. Organize Your Content on Your Website (Publish)

        Now that your content is written and you know where updates will be coming from, it's time to figure out where to put it all. Start with your most important pages--About, News, Events, Ministries, Blog, Contact--and work your way down. Think about where a user who is completely unfamiliar with your ministry would look for content and put it there.

        4. Is It Working? (Manage)

        Just because your content is live, doesn't mean your work is done. You should always be trying to improve your content and how it's structured.
        • Do your users get frustrated when trying to find information?
        • Does the content on your site meet all your goals and answer all user questions?
        • Is new content being created on time? Is it quality content?
        Ask these questions constantly. If you aren't happy with the answers, your users aren't happy with your content, and changes should be made.

        Content Audits

        A great way to make sure your website content is the best is can be is to schedule regular content audits. Sweep your website to see if your content meets all of your goals. Ask "who cares?" to each page. If no one does, get rid of it.

        Diagram in the article was created by Rahel Bailie.

        LEARN MORE ABOUT CONTENT STRATEGY

        Complete Beginner's Guide to Content Strategy - UX Booth
        The DIscipline of Content Strategy - A List Apart
        Content Strategy Blog - Brain Traffic
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        MonMondayMarMarch7th2011 The Art of ReTweet
        byBryan Young Tagged Social Media 0 comments Add comment
        “Retweets are the new currency on the Web” – Michael Arrington, Techcrunch.com
        The spreading of ideas is what Twitter, social media, and the Internet is all about.

        With so many people posting tweets with links to interesting content, blog entries, and news updates, retweeting these posts can be beneficial to you.

        iMinistries retweet

        Retweeting can be a great source of content

        One of the biggest challenges that comes maintaining a relevant Twitter feed is developing content to post. Retweeting takes the work out of content development. All you have to do is find interesting tweets to repost.

        Retweeting others gives your followers incentive to retweet you

        Seeing the "RT" on your feed makes your followers take notice. It tells them this content was so interesting, you want to share it. It also encourages them to share it with their followers, since you took the time to do so.

        How to properly retweet

        1. Always give credit to the source by including their twitter username
          (e.g. @author)
        2. Shorten URLs in your tweets
          (URL shortening website bit.ly is excellent; We like using Hootsuite.)
        3. If there are remaining characters at the end of a retweet, consider adding your own point of view.
        4. Think twice before retweeting sensitive material or something that might be untrue.
        5. Only retweet stuff that you think will be relevant to your followers.

        MORE RESOURCES ON RETWEETING

        Science of Retweets (PDF) - DanZarella.com
        Twitter Survey Results - A Closer Look at the Retweet Button - SimplyZesty.com
        Retweeting: 'Followers' look to 'leaders' as social networks grow
        - CNN.com
        13 Ways to Get Your Blog Posts Retweeted
        - Twitip.com
        MonMondayFebFebruary28th2011 5 Types of People You Need To Make a Great Church Website
        byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

        It takes a village to raise a child. But it only takes a few motivated people to make your church website a success. Here are the people you need on your web team. Or you could luck out and meet a person with all these traits.

        "Get 'R Done" Person

        Whether this is a pastor, an administrative assistant, or a willing volunteer, a passionate project leader is essential for a great ministry website. Without someone behind the scenes to keep things moving, a website may never be launched at the beginning or continually updated after launch.


        Content Writer

        "Content is king." So the writer is the "kingmaker" of sorts. Your writer doesn't have to be a professional crafter of words, but must be able to communicate effectively what you want your visitors to learn about your church or ministry and its news and events.


        Caretaker

        What's the point of having a website if you don't update it? You're going to need a person eager to post news and events or upload your sermon each Sunday. This is where using a church CMS (like iMinistries) is key. You can split up updating responsibilities over a group of people or have each ministry control their own space on the website.


        Designer/Photographer

        More than likely, you have an artistic person in your congregation or among your ministry followers. Tap into that resource to show your website visitors what's going on with you and what you're all about. People notice graphics and love photos. So give the people what they want. Add banners and ads on your site promoting your latest events. Upload photo albums of past events to make people want to be apart of your next one.


        Mr. Fix-It/Mr. Know-It-All

        From time to time, someone's going to have a question about how to add something to your website. It's best to have a member of your team with the knowledge and creativity to make things work. Or at least someone who knows how to read and understand help documentation.


        We Can Help

        At iMinistries, we understand that many ministries are limited in their ability to have all these people at your disposal. We offer the following services:

        Free Trial

        See how easy it is to build your church website!
        Start your 15-day free trial account,

        MonMondayFebFebruary21st2011 5 Ways to Improve Your Church Website, Gordon Ramsay Style

        One of my favorite TV shows is Kitchen Nightmares, where world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay visits failing restaurants and helps them turn their businesses around.

        He always uses the same steps to eliminate their weaknesses, highlight their strengths, and streamline their processes. The same steps can be followed to improve your website ... without all the screaming or colorful language.

        Step 1: Simplify Your Menu

        Most of the restaurants on Kitchen Nightmares have one thing in common: large, cluttered menus. Ramsay strips the menu down to the basics and concentrates on preparing a handful of signature dishes. The less dishes chefs have to know, the better they can prepare those dishes. Instead of 40 mediocre dishes, the restaurant focuses on 10 fantastic dishes.

        Your website menu is no different. The less choices your website visitor has to make, the better they can find and use the information they want.

        Start by stripping down your menu (and your site's content) to what's absolutely necessary. Build upon the foundation of these pages:
        • About
        • Contact
        • Location
        • What We Believe/Our Mission
        • News and Events

        Step 2: Identify With Your Customers

        In the restaurant's new menu dishes, Ramsay always includes meals that identify with the neighboring community. In ocean-side Massachusetts, this included locally caught seafood. In hip Los Angeles, he recommended brick oven pizzas (a real crowd-pleaser). And in a New York community aching for a steakhouse, Ramsey made one out of a bankrupt bistro.

        The lesson here is simple. Give your website visitors what they want.
        • If they come to your site wanting to know how they can get involved in your ministry, tell them.
        • If they want a way to give to your ministry, let them.
        • If they want to interact with your ministry, provide a way for them to do so through a blog or other media.

        Step 3: Highlight Your Strengths

        Gordon Ramsay has a knack for figuring out what the restaurant is best at and finding a way to bring it to the forefront. Some restaurants have excellent chefs who are stuck making uninspired dishes. Others have managers who relate well with people, but are assigned to menial tasks by themselves. Instead of spending all his time harping on the bad, Ramsey is a master at shifting things so the good shines through.

        If your ministry has powerful teaching, you should be promoting it through podcasts and videos and through banners and ads on your home page. If instead your strength is connecting people with volunteer opportunities, this should be front and center. Your website visitors shouldn't have to wonder what your ministry is all about.



        Step 4: Keep it Clean

        A clean restaurant is a successful restaurant. And we're not just talking about shiny ovens and mopped floors. Efficiency is required for any business to be successful, but this is more true for food service. Waiters must be able to juggle multiple tables. Chefs have to make delicious meals to order, and quickly. And managers must support both so that everything runs smoothly.

        The same can be said for your website. What good is information if your visitors can't find it?

        A tightened, simplified menu will help organize your content. But what about pages that don't fall directly under your menu headings? Links can act as a "restaurant manager" for your content. Embed links to other pages in your main pages, and add ads or banners that entice your visitors to explore your website, easily and without frustration.

        Step 5: Listen to Criticism and Seek Advice

        Gordon Ramsay is probably most well-known for the way in which he interacts with the participants of Kitchen Nightmares and his other show, Hell's Kitchen. He doesn't back down from confrontation. He yells, uses obscenities liberally, and tells it like it is. He can get away with this, of course, because he knows what he's talking about. He's done it before, and it works. For those who take his harsh criticism and implement his advice, their businesses are improved dramatically.

        Most of us don't like to hear when we fall short. But website administrators should invite criticism from their website visitors. Your site is for them, after all. Set up a feedback form on your website and listen to what your users have to say. What if they have different views as to what's most important than you do?

        You should also welcome advice from experts who have built effective websites. Make it a goal to read books and blogs (like this one) that help you make your website better. Then take their advice and put it into practice.


        More resources for improving your ministry website

        Better Web Writing - iMinistries Blog
        Your About Us Page: Beginning the Conversation - iMinistries Blog
        Free Trial

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        MonMondayFebFebruary7th2011 Programs for Broadcasting Worship Services Online for Free

        Ustream and Livestream are platforms that make it easy for anyone with an Internet connection and a camera to stream a live broadcast without limit to the audience's size.

        Do you have elderly or ill congregation members who can't leave their home? Missionaries overseas who want to keep up with their home church? Former attenders who have recently moved? Stream your worship services on your website with these online streaming applications.

        How Does it Work?

        By plugging your ministry's camera feed into your computer, you can stream your video live across the Internet to an embedded player on your website. Kinda like YouTube, but with live video, streaming to anyone with access to your website.

        What Do I Need to Stream Live Video?

        1. A Camera
        Check this list for cameras compatible with Ustream.

        2. Internet Connection
        The faster the better, but at least DSL or Cable.

        3. A Browser-Based Video Producer
        Like Ustream's Producer or Livestream's Procaster. Learn more about these applications below.

        4. A Website
        For people to watch your stream, you'll need a place to embed the streaming video player.
        Don't have a website? We can help you with that.

        How do Ustream and Livestream's Features Compare?

        Ustream's Free Channel and Producer
          Livestream's Free Channel and Procaster

        Ustream provides you a free streaming channel and a free video producing application which allows you to do the following:

        • Supports one camera
        • Allows importing movies and audio
        • Enables up to three transitions
        • Supports picture in picture
        • Provides screen capture feature
        • Real-time viewer polls and chat

        If you upgrade to the Pro version, for a one-time fee of $199, you get the features above, but without any limits as to cameras, transitions, and adds titles and overlays.


         

        Livestream's free video producing software includes the following features:

        • moderated, real-time chat with your stream
        • multiple cameras supported
        • unlimited transitions
        • on-demand viewing (view past streams)

        You can upgrade your channel from Free to Premium for $350 per month. Upgraded features include HD streaming, no ads, and the exclusive rights to your channel's content.


        How is it Free?

        The biggest downside of using a free service is having to endure the text ads they place at the bottom of your stream player or before your stream begins. If this is not a sacrifice you are willing to make for free streaming, you may want to look into a paid service, like Livestream's Premium channels.

        LEARN MORE ABOUT STREAMING LIVE VIDEO

        Live Stream Your Church Service - Media Ministry Blog
        How to Live Stream Your Church Services - Media Ministry Blog

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        MonMondayJanJanuary31st2011 Connecting Through Your Website: Connecting Goes Beyond Words

        In this series, we examine how to connect with visitors to your ministry website, as defined in John Maxwell's book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect.

        We all know that non-verbal communication is important. While speaking to a group of people, if you speak in monotone, stare at your notes, and spout off statistics, your audience will check out quickly, no matter how important your words are.

        On your ministry website, the text on each of your pages offers the information your users come for. But the non-textual aspects of your church website's pages can cause a person to check out as fast as that monotone voice.

        To make sure your communication is successful beyond the use of words, Maxwell explains you need to aim at connecting on four levels.

          FOUR COMPONENTS OF CONNECTION

          What People See - Connecting Visually

          "People expect any kind of communication to be a visual experience." (pg. 54)

          Putting it into practice
          Well-written content on a good-looking website is the perfect outfit. A tailored suit (content) is a classic look, but an expensive watch, colorful tie and pocket square, and polished shoes (website design) will make heads turn.

          By making your church website's look clean and simple, while using colors that please the eye, you can create an opportunity to make a connection from your visitors' first page.

          Here are other ways to connect visually:
          • Add images that explain or conceptualize your content
          • Embed video on your pages
          • Use bullet points, headers, and lists to create word pictures

          What People Understand - Connecting Intellectually

          "To effectively connect ... you must know two things: your subject and yourself" (pg. 62)
          "Effective communicators are comfortable in their own skin..." (pg. 63)

          Putting it into practice
          Your church website visitors desire one thing above all else: information. So give them what they want. Put yourself in their shoes and ask what you'd be looking for if you'd never visited your ministry before.

          Make a list of these questions and put your content to the test. Does it answer all these questions effectively? Will visitors have to click numerous times to find basic information? If so, maybe you should strategize how to better address your user's inquiries.

          What People Feel - Connecting Emotionally

          "If you want to win over another person, first win his heart, and the rest of him is likely to follow." (pg. 64)
          "That is your goal anytime you want to connect with people. Help them to feel what you feel" (pg. 67)

          Putting it into practice
          You are passionate about your ministry. How do you help your church website visitors share that passion?
          • Stories: Write news articles or produce videos to show God at work in your ministry.
          • Photos: Feature the people of your ministry on your staff and ministry pages. Everyone loves a smiling face.
          • Blog: Interact with your users through blog entries and comments. Connect your blog to your Facebook page for more interaction.

          What People Hear - Connecting Verbally

          "What we say and how we say things make quite an impact ... They can turn boring talk into a memorable moment." (pg. 67)

          Putting it into practice
          Just like your speaking voice can engage or bore your audience, your writing voice can do the same.
          • Use active voice and present tense to convey excitement.
          • Avoid "I think" or "I feel" language; instead use confident, absolute statements.
          • Write in short, direct sentences and small paragraphs to keep your user's attention.

          PUT THEM ALL TOGETHER

          "Best advice ... learn how to be yourself ... know [yourself] and [your] strengths." (pg. 68)
          "If you haven't discovered and developed your style, study other communicators ... Just make them your own." (pg. 69)

          Think about what your ministry's strengths are and find a way to make them prominent on your website.
          • Is it powerful teaching? Emphasize your podcast.
          • Edifying worship services? Show photos on your homepage and make your service times prominent.
          • A growing small group ministry? Write a series of stories about changed lives.
          Visit other websites for ministries that have similar strengths. How do they feature their strengths? How can you adapt their ideas for your website?

          Free Trial

          We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

          Create Your Free Trial Account

          OTHER RESOURCES FOR CONNECTING BEYOND WORDS

          Writing For the Web - iMinistries Blogs
          Is Your Homepage Attractive? - iMinistries Blogs
          MonMondayJanJanuary24th2011 Connecting Through Your Website: Connecting is all About Others
          byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

          In this series, we examine how to connect with visitors to your ministry website, as defined in John Maxwell's book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect.

          In Chapter 2 of his book, John Maxwell explains that the key to connecting is to focus on others before yourself. But putting others first isn't enough. You must communicate an attitude of selflessness. To do that, says Maxwell, you answer three questions people ask themselves when interacting with others ... and when they visit your website.

          Three Questions People Ask Before They Connect

          Do You Care For Me?

          "Whenever you can help other people to understand that you genuinely care about them, you open the door to connection, communication, and interaction." (pg. 38)

          Can You Help Me?

          "There's an old saying in sales: nobody wants to be sold, but everyone wants to be helped." (pg. 40)

          Can I Trust You?

          "Connecting begins when the other person feels valued." (pg. 44)

          How To Answer These Questions With A Resounding "Yes!"

          Your Homepage - Be Welcoming

          First impressions are everything. You only have one chance, and a few precious seconds, to make one. The second your users see your homepage, they should feel welcomed.

          Adding these to your homepage should get the job done:

          • Images
            church members, your logo, your building
          • Color
            even if your background is white, a few splashes of color makes your site pop
          • Links
            using ads, banners, and cross-links let your user know there is important information here

          Your Writing - Be Friendly

          In previous blogs, we've talked about how to write for the Web. Writing with an active voice will engage your user like an enthusiastic speaker (like John Maxwell) grabs the attention of his audience. Using bullet points, lists, and headings to break up your text makes it easier for your visitors to read, and less overwhelming from the outset.

          Contact Us Page - Be Available

          Every website should have a Contact Us section, either displayed in your menu, quick links, or footer.

          Even if 90% of your visitors never call or e-mail you, the fact that you have one on display tells your users that you care about them and are willing to help.

          Having a Contact Us page is step one in connecting. Step two is actually answering the phone calls, e-mails, and form submissions in a timely, friendly way.

          Want to impress those who contact you?

          Respond immediately. They will be blown away, and you'll be on your way to making a connection.

          Other Resources for Connecting

          John Maxwell on Websites: Communicating vs. Connecting - iMinistries Blog
          Cross-Linking: Search Engines and Website Visitors Love It - iMinistries Blog
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          MonMondayJanJanuary17th2011 John Maxwell on Websites: Communicating vs. Connecting
          byBryan Young Tagged No tags 0 comments Add comment

          In his book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, leadership guru John Maxwell talks about the difference between communicating with people and actually connecting with them at a deeper level. While reading this book, I found that many of the strategies he uses for connecting with others in social interactions and speaking engagements can be used for ministry and church websites.

          In this series, I'll provide a few points from chapters I find relatable to creating a ministry website that connects to its visitors. Before we get there, first we must know what role the Web plays in connecting with others, what connecting is exactly, and why its so important.

          What role does the web play in connecting?

          How John Maxwell uses the Web to connect

          While Maxwell was writing Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, he posted the manuscript on his blog, JohnMaxwellonLeadership.com, and encouraged feedback from his readers. The response was a remarkable example of connecting with others.

          The manuscript received more than 100,000 views, and Maxwell made nearly 100 changes based on people's comments and included many quotes and stories in the final book. He even asked those who commented to send him their photos, which he displayed on the book's cover.

          By including their pictures on the cover and their stories in the book, Maxwell showed these people he values their input and probably won over others who heard about it. Think about how many more people will by his book, visit his blog, and become better leaders and connectors.

          Maxwell continues to blog and use social media to add value to others and improve his ability to connect with others. If he can do it by utilizing the Web, you can, too.

          What is connecting?

          "Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them." (pg. 3)

          Have you ever tuned out during a speech or sermon? It was because the speaker didn't connect with you. Either his energy level was too low to engage you, the topic was not applicable to your life, or the drone of his voice caused your eyelids to droop. He was speaking, but you were not listening. He was communicating, but not connecting.

          This can happen in any daily interaction. You flip the radio dial, change the channel, rush through a conversation, or jump to another website, all because you were not connected. You can see how it is important to make the extra effort to connect with everyone who visits your website. If you don't, they will go somewhere else. The good news? Everyone has the ability to connect!

          How do I know if I've connected with others?

          When you can see some of the following things from those who visit your website, you know you've connected with them.*

          • Unsolicited appreciation--they say positive things
          • Unguarded openness--they demonstrate trust
          • Increased communication--they express themselves more readily
          • Enjoyable experiences--they feel good about what they're doing
          • Emotional bondness--they display a connection on an emotional level

          Why is connecting important?

          "We are bombarded with thirty-five thousand messages a day ... e-mails ... Twitter, Facebook, and blogs ... Everybody talks. The question is, how can you make your words count." (pg. 1)

          Because of people's short attention spans and the overwhelming amount of information available today, connecting with your website's visitors is both increasingly more important and more difficult. It's obvious that more connections with your website users could result in more visitors to your church or more involvement in your ministry. But it can also help you make a bigger impact than just increased numbers.

          Connecting makes you an effective leader

          If you want your website to make a difference in the name of Christ, it will have to lead others into doing so. Think of all the great leaders that have made a difference in your life. They all display similar characteristics that require connecting with others.**

          They include:

          • Vision--describe where you are going
          • Consensus--persuade others to come along with you
          • Charisma--connect at a personal level
          • Trust--demonstrate credibility

          You can show all these characteristics through the content on your website, the conviction of your blog, and the passion in your podcasts.

          Connecting helps you build relationships

          "The ability to connect with others begins with understanding the value of people." (pg. 15)

          Building a relationship with the people who use your website is important if you want them to keep coming back and to become more involved with your ministry. We previously explored the idea that your website is a conversation with those who visit, and the ultimate goal of this conversation is to develop a deep, intimate dialogue. The key to making this conversation one of depth is by connecting with your visitors by first realizing how important they are and by showing you value them.

          Connecting increases your influence

          "Because the ability to communicate and connect with others is a major determining factor in reaching your potential." (pg. 3)

          If you're desire is to become a source of influence for Christ in your community and its people, you must connect. If your website fails to connect with its visitors, your message will not reach the amount of people it could. Increasing your energies into connecting increases your ministry's potential reach.

          *from prologue, page xii
          **from pgs. 4-5


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          MonMondayJanJanuary10th2011 Cross-Linking: Search Engines and Website Visitors Love It
          byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

          What is Cross-Linking?


          Cross-linking is including a link to a page on your site, from another page. These links can appear as in-text hyperlinks or graphics, in various locations throughout your church website.


          Why Cross-Linking?


          Cross-linking makes two important groups happy. And you want to keep these groups happy.

          Search Engines
          Google, Bing, and Yahoo love websites with loads of links. They also love websites who have links directed to themselves. Cross-linking kills these two birds with one stone. Including links to other pages on your site within your content goes a long way to improve your search engine ranking.

          Your Site Visitors
          A cross link is a call to action. These links show your visitors that your content is important, gives them alternatives in case the information they seek is not found on the page, makes them aware of more information, and gives them reasons to stay on your website.


          How to Implement Cross-Linking


          Before you start throwing in 10,000 links on each of your church website's pages, it is important to have a strategy. Planning before doing will help your links be more effective without overwhelming your visitor.

          1. Make a list of your calls to action.

          Your website's calls to action might include:
          • Subscribe (to a newsletter, podcast, or blog feed)
          • Contact Us (by filling out a form, e-mailing, or calling)
          • Log in (to their account)
          • Volunteer (by filling out a opportunity inquiry)
          • Join (by creating a personal account)
          • Read (news, blogs, newsletters)
          • Register (for an upcoming event)
          • Look (pictures)
          • Listen (to sermons or other podcasts)

          2. Prioritize your calls to action.
          Think about which pages make the most sense for these calls to action. Make a plan of how to include one or more calls to action on each page of your website.


          Where to Include Cross Links


          Page Text Body
          The easiest place to include cross links is within your website pages' text. It's important to incorporate links into your writing, instead of using words like "click here" or "visit this page." See what I did there. I built a link to another page on this website within a sentence. This helps your user understand what information is on this other page. Using keywords and phrases in these links acts as a highlighter to search engines, as well. They notice your links, read the keywords, and are more likely to include your this page in search results.

          Side Columns
          Depending on which template you use, you should have space in your left or right column for call-to-action graphics. Incorporating colorful buttons or scrolling ads will help to keep your ministry website visitors clicking from page to page.

          Headers/Scrolling Banners
          Scrolling banners act like roadside billboards for your website's most desirable content. By designing eye-catching banners, you can direct your home page visitors right to your sermons, blog, or latest ministry event.

          Don't have the staff to create ads or banners? Let us design some for you.

          Footer
          The real estate at the bottom of your website shouldn't be ignored. A best practice is to include links to your Contact Us page, Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, and other pages that might not easily fall under your menu categories. Some websites, like iMinistries', even include their site map in the footer.


          LEARN MORE ABOUT CROSS-LINKING


          Cross-Linking and Search Engine Optimization - WebProNews
          Cross-Linking and Internal Link Architecture - The Online Marketing Guy

          Free Trial

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          MonMondayDecDecember13th2010 Is Your Church Website Visitor-Focused? Scott McClellan of Collide Magazine shared a recent frustrating experience with a well-known church's website. He visited their church website to find a specific piece of information. After sifting through the many banners, menus, links, and text, he found that the website didn't contain the information he was seeking. This prompted him to tweet ...
          "Some church websites absolutely boggle my mind. The design, the layout, the information overload, the blatant disregard for the visitor ..."
          Can your visitors say the same about your ministry website?

          Your Ministry Website Visitors Want Information

          During the construction and continued maintinence of websites, it is easy to forget that your visitors come to your website for one reason: information. The design, menus, ads, and fancy features are important, but only if they help your users find what they're looking for.

          Does your website contain important information?

          Here's a quick and easy test you can perform to make sure your website contains the information it should. Ask yourself the questions a person who has never heard of your ministry would want to know.
          • Where is your ministry?
          • When do you meet?
          • Do you have a children's ministry?
          • Where should I park?
          • How can I volunteer?
          • How can I join a small group?
          • How do I register my child for summer camp?
          Now try to answer these and other common questions on your website. Ask someone who has never seen your website to find these answers. Are there any questions that are only answered half-way? Or not at all?

          Is it easy to find important information?

          • How easy is it to find the answers to the above questions?
          • Do you/they have to navigate through numerous menus, submenus, and pages?
          • Are there any ads, banners, links, or highlights that act as shortcuts to this information?
          • Are there too many ads, banners, or links so that it's more difficult to see this information?
          • How do you/they feel when trying to find this information (confused, overwhelmed, frustrated, at-ease)?
          Take this information and use it to improve your website.

          Give your visitors what they want

          Remember, your website is for your visitor. Give your visitor what they want: answers with as little work as possible. Here's three easy steps you can take to make your ministry website more visitor-focused.

          Free Trial

          We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

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          MonMondayNovNovember15th2010 Social Media and My Ministry: Five Essential Management Tools
          byBryan Young Tagged Social Media 0 comments Add comment
          Twitter posts, blog entries, Facebook updates ... managing your social media presence can be overwhelming to think about. Thankfully, there are tools available to help you. Below are a list of five free programs, websites, and applications to help you organize, manage, and develop your ministry's social media.

          HowSociable?

          Track your ministry's brand visibilty on social media websites
          This website tracks your ministry's presence on the Web's many social media sites and produces a brand visibility score based on the amount of content and followers you have on these sites. Because of its many Vimeo videos, Facebook pages and followers, and Twitter tweets, a large church like Harvest Bible Chapel has a brand visibility score of 217.

          HowSociable? is a good place to visit before you develop your social media strategy. You can see where your presence is strong and where you need to increase it. It's also a great way to track your efforts. Visiting this site regularly will give you a tangible way to see if your social media strategy is succeeding. Score increasing? Job well done.

          HOWSOCIABLE.COM

          HootSuite

          Schedule tweets, track your followers, and see who's mentioning you
          One of the most popular tools for managing social media accounts is this web-based application. This website allows you to manage multiple Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Wordpress, and other social media accounts. If you have more than one person managing your social media, HootSuite allows for multiple users to access and utilize your account.

          You can schedule future updates for all or each account individually. HootSuite also provides you with tons of useful data like who's retweeting your posts, how many people click on the links in your tweets, and also integrates your website's Google Analytics. If you have many social media accounts, and many people managing them, HootSuite is a great place to organize and manage it all from one location.

          HOOTSUITE.COM

          TweetDeck

          Manage your social media accounts and follow others'
          This program is downloaded to your desktop, and offers much of the same features as HootSuite, like multiple Twitter and Facebook account management, update scheduling, and photo sharing.

          TweetDeck makes it easy to see all updates on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media sites from your followers and those you follow. Seeing all these updates from one dashboard saves you the time and effort of visiting each site multiple times per day, and makes it easier to retweet or link to these posts. You can also download TweetDeck to your iPhone or iPad for following or updating on the go.

          TWEETDECK.COM

          IceRocket

          Find Web content to link to and retweet
          A common mistake when it comes to planning for social media is thinking you need to constantly create new content for posting. One of the easiest ways to find material for blogs and tweets is to link to other content on the Web. This website allows you to search and keyword, phrase, topic, or even your own church name to see what people are saying on blogs, Twitter, Facebook posts, news, or even images.

          Retweet someone else's post and they may return the favor later, making you visible to their followers. Respond to a blogger's entry and they might link to your blog, driving more traffic to your website. Include a link to a news story on your Facebook site to keep your followers up-to-date on your ministry's happenings.

          ICEROCKET.COM

          LaterBro

          Schedule tweets and Facebook updates for future dates and times
          After signing into this web-based tool, you can add several Twitter accounts and one Facebook account to schedule future updates. Just enter in your tweet (limited to 140 characters), pick your future date from the calendar, and select a time and LaterBro does the updating for you. It even has a built in URL shortener.

          Scheduling future updates help you plan ahead and allows for updates to go out even if you're not in the office. Already know your pastor's sermon schedule? Enter in a month's worth of updates on one day to work more efficiently.

          LATERBRO.COM
          MonMondayNovNovember8th2010 Facebook and Your Ministry: Creating a Like Page
          byBryan Young Tagged Social Media 0 comments Add comment
          Unless you've been living under a rock the past few years, you've heard of Facebook. And unless you have a good reason not to, you have your own Facebook profile. But how can you utilize Facebook to spread the word about your ministry? We'll seek to answer that very question in this entry.


          Facebook as a Supplement to Your Website

          Facebook isn't just a website to post pictures, keep up with high school friends, and remember your uncle Donald's birthday. It is a powerful tool for mass communication. Over 400 million people worldwide are active users. Where else can you reach this large of an audience? And for free?

          Facebook allows for you to create a "page" for your church or ministry. This page can be the host of updates by you like pictures, news items, and posts from your website blog. Other users can follow these updates and post their own messages on your page's wall. You can gain more followers by linking your page from your website, from your Twitter feed, or by sending invitations for users to "Like" your ministry.

          Develop a Strategy

          Before you create your Facebook page, it's important to develop a strategy for how you plan to use it. Here are popular ways for using Facebook:
          • Fostering and encouraging dialogue
          • Make more people aware of your blog or Twitter feed
          • Advertise latest news and events
          • Post photos and video of recent or upcoming events
          • Link to sermons on your website

          Creating a Page

          To create a page, navigate to the Create a Page section and follow these steps:
          1. Select the "Brand, product, or organization" radio button and "Religious Organization" from the drop down menu.
          2. Type in the name of your ministry next to "Page Name."
          3. Check the box notifying Facebook that you are the official representative for you organization and review the terms.
          4. Click "Create Official Page"
          5. Edit your page setting by clicking "Edit Page." Here you can add or remove page applications like Photos, Discussion Boards, Links, Video, Notes, Events, and more. Use your strategy to determine which applications to add and which are not necessary. Only add the ones you will use.
          6. Add a picture for your ministry by hovering over the picture and choosing "Upload Picture."
          7. Click the Info tab and insert your address, hours (worship service times), phone number, website address and a little about yourself.
          8. Finish customizing your page by adding photos, filling in the text box below your photo, and adding other application tabs.
          9. Let your Facebook friends know about your page by clicking the Suggest to Friends button below your picture. Let others know by sending as an e-mail by clicking the Share button at the bottom of the page.

          Incorporating Twitter and Your Website Updates

          Facebook allows you to add applications into your page to make it easier to sync it with your other media. To do so, Edit Page, and search for applications under More Applications. Check out these detailed help documents to add your Twitter feed, blog, and other media to your page.

          OTHER RESOURCES FOR FACEBOOK

          How Do I Create a Facebook Page for My Ministry? - iMinistries Support Document
          Facebook Page Help Center - Facebook.com
          Facebook Best Practices for Nonprofit Organizations
          MonMondayOctOctober25th2010 5 Reasons Your Ministry Should Be On Facebook
          byBryan Young Tagged Social Media 0 comments Add comment
          Facebook is a social networking website which allows users to create an account, personalize it with pictures and information, add friends, and comment on other people's profiles. With over 400 million active users worldwide, Facebook has become one of the most powerful tools for mass marketing out there.

          Companies, organizations, and churches can create their own pages where users can congregate and keep up with news, videos, and picture posting, blog entries, and your Twitter feed. With Facebook's new integration with many of the most popular websites on the Internet, and the ability for users to customize their Web experience with its "Like" feature, the impact of Facebook on marketing and communication is substantial.

          Why Should My Ministry Have a Facebook Page?

          1. Audience

          Where else can you potentially reach 400 million people? Facebook has user profiles from people across the globe. After making your own Facebook page, any user can "Like" you and follow your content updates. The demographic for the majority of users is people between the ages of 20-35, making Facebook the place to be for interacting with the current generation of Internet users.

          2. Dialogue

          Your website is mostly one way interaction. You post a news item or create an event, and your users read the information. Facebook pages allow for two-way interaction. Any of Facebook's users can post comments on your page's Wall. They can ask you direct questions, they can interact with other users or answer discussion questions you post, or they can give their reaction on your blog entries, photos, or videos.

          3. It Drives Traffic to Your Website

          By integrating your church website's RSS feeds for news, blogs, and other content onto your Facebook page, you have another avenue for posting links back to your primary Web presence. Want more people reading your blog? Post an excerpt or summary on your Facebook page and link back to the full post on your website.

          4. Visibility and Relatability

          Having a Facebook page gives you "street cred." Facebook has grown to be one of the most popular websites in the world, and its young demographic is ideal for sharing your ministry's media. Any place you can share your website's content is great. For free, even better. But displaying it where young people visit every day, that's ideal.

          5. It's Free Advertising

          Because of its huge potential audience, having a Facebook page is like having an ad on the largest billboard on the largest street in your area. And it's free!

          In our next post, we'll talk about how to make your updates automated so that you'll rarely have to do more work than posting new content on your website.

          MORE RESOURCES FOR FACEBOOK AND YOUR MINISTRY

          Facebook Help Files - iMinistries Support
          10 Reasons Your Church Should Be on Facebook - Frank Chiapperino.com

          Free Trial

          We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

          Create Your Free Trial Account
          MonMondayOctOctober11th2010 Should I Create a Google Place for My Church or Ministry?

          It isn't a secret that everyone fights to appear on the first page of Google.

          While you might not know a lot about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or even have a budget to put towards getting your church website "optimized"...an excellent free service that Google provides is Google Places.

          By creating a Google Place for your church or ministry, you can quickly provide key details to users who have searched on specific terms in your area. For example, a Google Place will provide someone with your:
          • Church Name
          • Church address
          • Church phone number
          • Church website address
          • Church contact e-mail address
          • Directions to your church
          • Description of your church
          And, as always...the more information you provide the better. You might consider:
          • Both inside and outside photos of your church building, preferably with lots of smiling happy people bustling around.
          • A quick 2 minute promotional video about why someone should come to your church.
          • Adding special announcements about important or key topics that your church is passionate about.

          What are the benefits of creating a Google Place for your church or ministry?

          After creating your Place and allowing a few weeks transpire, you will be able to easily review basic statistics that Google provides. They provide you with an easy to read chart of either the last 7 or 30 days worth of activity as well as the Top Search Queries that served up your listing and an impressions vs. actions break down like the one I am including below.

          1326   impressions

          How many times users saw your business listing as a local search result

          108   actions

          How many times users showed interest in your business listing

          14   Clicks for more info on Maps
          2   Clicks for driving directions
          92   Clicks to your website

          Bottom line, Google Places is a great way to increase your online presence in front of your local community.

          Is your ministry using Google Places? Please comment why or why not.


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          MonMondaySepSeptember13th2010 Twitter and Your Ministry
          byBryan Young Tagged Social Media 0 comments Add comment
          In our last blog entry, we wrote the 5 Reasons Your Ministry Should Be on Twitter. If you've determined that you want to join the rapidly growing micro-blogging and social networking website, you'll want to develop a strategy, create your account, and embed your tweets on your ministry website.

          Develop Your Twitter Strategy

          Before you start posting tweets, you need to determine what you will post. Your ultimate goals for Twitter should be
          1. Embedding links to your website and getting people to click them
          2. Adding followers
          So you'll need to develop a strategy for accomplishing these goals. Here is what your weekly strategy might look like:
          • Monday: tweet a link to your latest sermon podcast
          • Wednesday: tweet a preview and link to your blog post or a Bible verse of the week
          • Thursday or Friday: retweet from your favorite pastor, thinker, or follower; tweet about an upcoming event or news item and link to your website
          • Saturday: tweet an invitation to join your Sunday services and provide your sermon series title
          You may not feel the need to tweet this often, but this gives you an idea of how a strategy built upon the days of the week can remove the "What to tweet" guessing game.

          Tips for tweeting:
          • Links, links, links: the most important part of any tweet is a link to other content--news, events, blogs, sermons, pictures--and the text of the tweet should "sell" this content
          • Retweeting is a great way for other Twitter users to notice you and possibly convert into followers. People love it when you repeat what they have to say. Having your posts retweeted by others means you've succeeded.
          • Word count: Each tweet is limited to 140 characters, so each word is important. Don't waste them.
          • URL Compression: URLs can be long and nasty. Use Tiny URL to compress them to only a few characters. Just paste in your long one, and it'll make it shorter.

          Create Your Twitter Account

          Creating your account on Twitter is as simple as coming up with a username (one that's easy to remember and makes sense for your ministry) and adding some followers.
          1. Go to Twitter.com and click on the Let me in button.
          2. Fill in your account information, including your username. Create.
          3. Click through the three steps to add people to follow.
          4. After your account is created, edit your picture and profile by clicking Profile on the home page.
          5. Add a thumbnail (your ministry logo), your location, bio, and your ministry website.
          6. Click Design and edit your background. You can even upload a custom background.
          Now you're ready to post your first tweet.

          Add Your Twitter Feed to Your iMinistries Website

          A good way to let your website visitors know they can follow you on Twitter is to embed your feed on your ministry website. This is also an effective way to build in advertisement for content on your website into your homepage. How to embed your feed as an ad on your website.

          Free Trial

          We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

          Create Your Free Trial Account

          MORE RESOURCES FOR TWITTER

          Twitter 101 - Twitter.com
          Twitter for Ministry Strategy 101 - ChurchCrunch.com
          Twitter for Churches - ebook and blog
          The Reason Your Church Must NOT Twitter - ChurchCrunch.com
          Twitter for Ministry and Church – A Business Perspective - ChurchCrunch.com
          Why I Love Twitter - Tim O'Reilly
          MonMondayAugAugust30th2010 5 Reasons Your Ministry Should Be On Twitter
          byBryan Young Tagged Social Media 0 comments Add comment

          Twitter is a social networking service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author's profile page and delivered to the author's subscribers who are known as followers. Followers can visit the author's Twitter page or use one of many tools to follow feeds, or their computer or phone.

          So what does this have to do with your ministry? Twitter can be used as a tool to connect with your users, to promote the content on your website, and possibly gain more interest in what your ministry is doing. Here are five reasons why your ministry should consider joining Twitter.

          1. Audience

          Twitter has over 100 million active users. Many are young (between 18-48) and come from all over the country and the world. Like Facebook and YouTube, Twitter is a tool that allows you to expand your ministry's reach. In addition to your followers, your tweets can also be found by adding topic tags and by retweeting posts from other Twitter accounts.

          2. Links, links, links

          One of the biggest benefits of Twitter is as an avenue for posting links back to your website. By using hyperlink abbreviating programs, you can create convert your long links into shorter ones. Twitter is all about driving traffic to your main Web presence, your ministry website.

          3. Networking

          "It's not what you know, it's who you know." We've all heard this saying and found it to be overwhelmingly true. By gaining followers and by following others yourself, you can develop a list of diverse contacts who share your beliefs, have a common mission, and may work in different areas of ministry. If you are interested in collaborating with other ministries, Twitter is a good place to develop relationships.

          4. It's easy, interactive, and viral

          Twitter is like a blog in that it initiates dialogue between you and your readers. Your followers can retweet your posts, or post your tweets from their profiles, they can respond to your tweets, and they can comment on the pictures you post. And its much less complicated than blogs. Users can read a tweet in 20 seconds and pass it on to others with an extra 5 seconds. They can follow much more people at once from mobile applications, desktop programs, and other utilities.

          5. It's Free Advertising

          Having a Twitter profile and posting tweets costs you nothing. Nothing except time and a tweeting strategy.

          That being said, Twitter is not for everyone. Above are just reasons why your church should consider it. Concentrate on the content of your ministry first, your ministry's website second, and advertising last.

          Reasons why you may not need Twitter

          • You don't know what a "blog" is, nevermind a "micro-blog"
          • You don't have enough content to link to on your ministry website
          • You can't devote any time to tweet, or you'd rather spend your time doing ministry work
          • You aren't interested in learning how to maximize its potential

          MORE RESOURCES FOR TWITTER

          The Reason Your Church Must NOT Twitter - ChurchCrunch.com
          Twitter for Ministry and Church – A Business Perspective - ChurchCrunch.com
          Why I Love Twitter - Tim O'Reilly

          Free Trial

          We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

          Create Your Free Trial Account
          MonMondayAugAugust16th2010 Social Media: Fad or the Future?
          byBryan Young Tagged Social Media 0 comments Add comment

          What is Social Media?

          Hundreds of websites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube, and LinkedIn have been created to help people connect with each other, from anywhere, at anytime (so long as there is an Internet connection). And many more are being created each day. For many, keeping up with the hottest new social media tools is daunting, let alone using these tools for their benefit.

          So is social media just a fad? Considering that many Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and non-profits are utilizing social media for marketing purposes, it seems that it's is not going away any time soon. Let this blog entry be a tool for you to evaluate if you should get in on the social media action.

          Which Social Media Tools Should I Care About?

          With new social media tools popping up by the minute, it can be difficult to know which ones matter. Here are the three social media tools you should know and consider using first.




          Facebook: This social networking website allows users to create an account, personalize it with pictures and information, add friends, and comment on other people's profiles. With over 400 million active users worldwide, Facebook has become one of the most powerful tools for mass marketing out there.


          Twitter: Users create an account and "micro-blog" posts of 140 characters or less. Many corporations, celebrities, and businesses have used Twitter to build their name and post links back to their websites.


          YouTube: After Google, this video posting website is the second most used search engine on the Internet. In this media-driven age, video is more important than ever for getting your message to the masses.

          What Are The Benefits Of Social Media?

          Social media tools are great ways to expand your reach on the Internet. They can be used in partnership with your website to make your name known and spread your ministry's message. Each channel can be a unique way of connecting with people. And isn't that the goal of your ministry? The best thing about the Internet is that you can touch a life in Africa as easily as you might across the street from your ministry. With social media, that possibility is only a few clicks away.

          Free Trial

          We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

          Create Your Free Trial Account

          How Can Social Media Be Used?

          By now you're probably asking "Why should I know about these tools?" All social media can be used to garner interest in your ministry and as a host to links back to your website. It is to be used as a supplement to your website, not as your primary Web presence. The ultimate goal is driving traffic to your website.

          Think of it as a megaphone for your website. A way to amplify your message on the Web.

          In upcoming blog posts, we will explain how to achieve this goal on each of the above social media channels.

          Should I Sign Up?

          No matter the size of your ministry, using social media tools can help you achieve your mission of reaching others for Christ. What does it take to achieve an effective social media presence?
          • Strategy: Make goals, figure out how social media can help you achieve them, and decide which tool will be most effective.
          • Time: You know the old saying: "Anything worth doing is worth doing right." If you don't have the time to do your best, it may be better not to start.
          • Content: To make yourself stand out in the crowd, you need interesting things to say and stuff to link to on your website.
          MonMondayJulJuly19th2010 Improving Search Results Case Study - Harvest Bible Chapel
          byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

          BACKGROUND

          Problem

          HarvestBibleChapel.org ranks low in simple Google searches using key words.

          Recommended Solution

          Implement standard SEO practices including:
          • Revising content
          • Revising site title format (as seen on top of window)
          • Adding Meta tags
          • Changing menu headings

          Project Goals

          To boost the Google search ranking to the top 10 website listings in each of the primary search terms. Simultaneously increase the website’s grade on WebsiteGrader.com.

          Time Line

          One week, from Wednesday, January 27 to Wednesday, February 3, 2010.


          IMPLEMENTATION

          Revising Content

          Every instance of “Harvest” was changed to “Harvest Bible Chapel” in the website page’s content, where it was possible. “Harvest Bible Chapel” is the search phrase most used by visitors arriving via a Google. Increasing the use of this phrase in site content increases the site’s ranking when entered in a search inquiry.

          The link title “Pastor James’s Blog” was changed to “James MacDonald’s Blog” to increase ranking when “James MacDonald” is entered in search inquiries.

          Revising Site Tile Format

          The previous site title (which appears at the top of the Internet browser window) was changed from the format “[Site Title] – [Page Title]” (ex. “Harvest Bible Chapel – Main Site – New To Harvest?”) to the format “Harvest Bible Chapel | Dr. James MacDonald | [Page Title].”

          Removing the site title and replacing it with “Harvest Bible Chapel” makes it more clear to Google what this site contains. Adding “Dr. James MacDonald” also will improve the search ranking for those who search this phrase.


          Adding Meta Tags

          No Meta tags were in place before this implementation. The description, which appears under the Web site listing in Google search results, was added as follows:

          “Harvest Bible Chapel is one church meeting on five campuses in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois led by Senior Pastor James MacDonald.”

          Mentioning the key phrases “Harvest Bible Chapel,” “James MacDonald,” “church,” and “Chicago, Illinois” positively influences the Google search rankings for these phrases.

          Keywords act as magnet words for Google search inquiries. Sites that include keyword Meta tags improve their search ranking when those words or phrases are searched. The following keywords were added:
          • Harvest Bible Chapel
          • HarvestBibleChapel.org
          • Harvest Bible Chicago
          • James MacDonald
          • Walk in the Word
          • Harvest Bible Fellowship
          • Chicago churches

          Changing Menu Headings

          The menu heading “About Harvest” was changed to “About Harvest Bible Chapel.”

          RESULTS

          Google Search Rankings

          Search rankings for each of the key phrases improved dramatically after only two days.

          Results Before SEO

          Results After SEO

          41 "harvest bible chapel"
          1 "harvest bible chapel"
          1 "harvestbiblechapel.org" 1 "harvestbiblechapel.org"
          ? "James MacDonald"
          3 "James MacDonald"
          23 "Dr. James MacDonald"
          6 "Dr. James MacDonald"
          7 "harvest bible"
          1 "harvest bible"

          Website Grade

          The website’s grade from WebsiteGrader.com increased more than four points after the SEO implementation.

          Before SEO

          Results After SEO

          91 Overall Website Grade
          95.6* Overall Website Grade
          2 Google PageRank
          2 Google PageRank
          154 Google Indexed Pages
          138* Google Indexed Pages
          94 Blog Grade
          96.5* Blog Grade
          1,012 Inbound Links
          1,012 Inbound Links
          2,425,735 Traffic Rank
          2,450,000* Traffic Rank

          * average

          Free Trial

          We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

          Create Your Free Trial Account

          FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS

          Increase Google Page Rank and Inbound Links

          The biggest influence on Page Rank is inbound links (other websites linking to HarvestBibleChapel.org). The higher the Page Rank of the sites linking to you, the more influence it has on your Page Rank. HarvestBibleChapel.org has relatively low inbound links, so it is crucial to develop more.

          The challenge is that this site is more of a “hub” which directs many users to the campus websites so the amount of content it contains, and the frequency in which its content changes, is less than other church websites of a similar size (harvest.org, willowcreek.org).

          Finding a way to develop more inbound links is important to increase the site’s traffic and it’s Page Rank. Sites to get inbound links:
          • Local universities (.edu sites’ links carry more weight)
          • Facebook (fan pages, personal profiles)
          • Extension ministries: HCA, HBF, Walk in the Word, should all be linking back to this site)
          • Twitter: a Harvest Twitter account would drive traffic and add links
          • Other free sites: Chambers of Commerce, church directories, etc.
          MonMondayAprApril12th2010 Google Analytics: Campaigns, Custom Links, and More
          byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

          Understanding campaign variables: The five dimensions of campaign tracking

          Google Analytics tracks online campaigns using a combination of the following five marketing dimensions:

          Source
          Every referral to a web site has an origin, or source. Examples of sources are the Google search engine, the AOL search engine, the name of a newsletter, or the name of a referring website.

          Medium
          The medium helps to qualify the source; together, the source and medium provide specific information about the origin of a referral. For example, in the case of a Google search engine source, the medium might be "cost-per-click," indicating a sponsored link for which the advertiser paid, or "organic", indicating a link in the unpaid search engine results. In the case of a newsletter source, examples of medium include "e-mail" and "print."

          Term
          The term or keyword is the word or phrase that a user types into a search engine.

          Content
          The content dimension describes the version of an advertisement on which a visitor clicked. It is used in content-targeted advertising and Content (A/B) Testing to determine which version of an advertisement is most effective at attracting profitable leads.

          Campaign
          The campaign dimension differentiates product promotions such as "Spring Ski Sale" or slogan campaigns such as "Get Fit For Summer."

          Creating Custom Links

          Ever wonder how many of your site's users click on your ads or hyperlinks? Google Analytics can track that, too!

          After creating an ad, visit the Google Analytics URL Builder. After adding the end location of your link, edit a few descriptors and Google will create a custom link. Copy this link and use it as your hyperlink URL. Every time your website users click on this link, Google will track their visit information. To access that information, just click Campaigns under Traffic Sources in your website report.



          MORE RESOURCES FOR GOOGLE ANALYTICS

          Getting Started Guide – Google Analytics
          Quick Start Guide for Custom Reporting – Google Analytics
          How Do I Tag My Links? – Google Analytics
          Free Trial

          See how easy it is to build your church website!
          Start your 15-day free trial account

          MonMondayMarMarch29th2010 Google Analytics: Viewing Traffic Reports
          byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

          Analyze tons of data about your ministry website visitors

          After you add your Google Analytics account number to your iMinistries website, you'll need to wait 24 hours for data to accumulate on your GA profile. When your data is complied, you can view any of the dozens of Google Analytics reports by clicking the View Reports link at the top of your Analytics screen.

          Types of Reports

          Important reports in the Content section:

          Overview: lists pageview volume and lists the pages (Top Content) that were most responsible for driving pageviews.

          Top Content: Which are the most commonly viewed pages on your site, and how are they used? The table lists all of the pages which were viewed on your site. A high "Time on Page" may indicate content that is particularly interesting to visitors.

          Top Exit Pages: From which pages do people exit your site? It may be common for visitors to exit your site from a receipt or "thank you" page because they have completed a conversion activity. But a large number of exits from a news item, blog, or event pagemay indicate that the page is confusing or uninteresting.

          Important reports in the Traffic Sources section:

          Overview: Shows the different kinds of sources that send traffic to your site. The graph shows traffic trends. The pie-chart and tables show what is driving the trends. How did your website visitors get to your site: Direct Traffic, Referring Sites, or Search Engines?

          Direct Traffic: How do the people who clicked a bookmark or typed your site URL into their browser to visit your website compare to the "average" visitor to your site?

          Referring Sites: How do the people referred from other sites compare to the "average" visitor to your site? The graph shows the overall trends in traffic volume from referrals while the table lists the sites driving the trends.

          Search Engines: How does search engine traffic compare to traffic as a whole to your site? The graph shows overall trends while the table lists the search engines driving the trends. (Read our blog entries on how to improve your Google search results.)

          Keywords: How does traffic from search keywords compare to traffic as a whole to your site? The graph shows overall trends while the table shows the keywords driving the trends.

          Important reports in the Visitors section:

          Visitors Overview: How many new and returning visitors came to your site and how extensively did they interact with your content? This traffic overview allows you to drill down into aspects of visit quality (i.e. average pageviews, time on site, bounce rate) and visit characteristics (i.e. first time visitors, returning visits).

          Visits: The number of visits your site receives is the most basic measure of how effectively you promote your site.

          Pageviews: Pageviews is the total number of pages viewed on your site and is a general measure of how much your site is used.

          Average Pageviews: Average pageviews is one way of measuring visit quality. A high Average Pageviews number suggests that visitors interact extensively with your site. A high Average Pageviews results from one or both of:
          1. Appropriately targeted traffic (i.e. visitors who are interested in what your site offers)
          2. High quality content effectively presented on the site.
          Conversely, a low average pageviews indicates that the traffic coming to the site has not been appropriately targeted to what the site offers or that the site does not deliver what was promised to the visitor.

          Time on Site: If visitors spend a long time visiting your site, they may be interacting extensively with it. This can sometimes be misleading because visitors often leave browser windows open when they are not actually viewing or using your site.

          Bounce Rate: Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page). Bounce rate is a measure of visit quality and a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance (landing) pages aren't relevant to your visitors.

          New vs. Returning: A high number of new visitors suggests that you are successful at driving traffic to your site while a high number of return visitors suggests that the site content is engaging enough to keep visitors coming back. You can see how frequently visitors return and how many times they return in "Recency" report and the "Loyalty report," both under "New vs. Returning" in the Visitors section.

          Map Overlay: Use this map to visualize visits by geographic region, country, and city.

          Length of Visit (Visitor Behavior):
          Length of visit is a measure of visit quality. A large number of lengthy visits suggests that visitors interact more extensively with your site. The graph allows you to visualize the entire distribution of visits instead of simply the ‘Average Time on Site’ across all visits.

          Depth of Visit (Visitor Behavior): Depth of visit is a measure of visit quality. A large number of high pageviews per visit suggests that visitors interact extensively with your site. The graph allows you to visualize the entire distribution of visits instead of simply the average pageviews per visit.

          Terms Used By Google Analytics

          Visits vs. Visitors

          Analytics measures both visits and visitors in your account. Visits represent the number of individual sessions initiated by all the visitors to your site. If a user is inactive on your site for 30 minutes or more, any future activity will be attributed to a new session. Users that leave your site and return within 30 minutes will be counted as part of the original session.

          The initial session by a user during any given date range is considered to be an additional visit and an additional visitor. Any future sessions from the same user during the selected time period are counted as additional visits, but not as additional visitors.

          Pageviews vs. Unique Pageviews

          A pageview is defined as a view of a page on your site that is being tracked by the Analytics tracking code. If a visitor hits reload after reaching the page, this will be counted as an additional pageview. If a user navigates to a different page and then returns to the original page, a second pageview will be recorded as well.

          A unique pageview, as seen in the Top Content report, aggregates pageviews that are generated by the same user during the same session. A unique pageview represents the number of sessions during which that page was viewed one or more times.

          Viewing Traffic Reports

          Check out the video below to see report checking in action.


          MORE RESOURCES FOR GOOGLE ANALYTICS

          Getting Started Guide – Google Analytics
          Quick Start Guide for Custom Reporting – Google Analytics
          Reporting Basics – Google Analytics
          Free Trial

          See how easy it is to build your church website!
          Start your 15-day free trial account

          MonMondayMarMarch15th2010 Google Analytics: Why Add it to Your Church Website?
          byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

          Track your website traffic with detailed reports from Google Analytics.

          Google Analytics (GA) is a free service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about the visitors to a website. It is the most widely used website statistics service, currently in use at around 40% of the 10,000 most popular websites. GA can track visitors from search engines and other websites and direct traffic. GA is designed to be used by both the casual Web administrator to the advanced Web marketer.

          Google Dashboard

          In your general reports, GA will display:
          • number of visitors to your site (within custom date ranges)
          • average pages per visit
          • bounce rate
          • average time visitors are on your site
          • percentage of new visitors
          • traffic sources
          • a list of your most-visited pages
          The more advanced user can create custom reports with an astounding amount of variables.

          How to Add Google Analytics

          Adding Google Analytics to your iMinistries website is as easy as "copy and paste."

          We are excited to offer you the ability to track your websites hits through Google Analytics. Set up is easy and free and the information that Google provides you is very useful.

          1. To begin, you must create a Google account. It is free.
          2. After you create your account, go to Google Analytics.
          3. Login with your new Google account.
          4. At the bottom of the screen, click on "Add a website profile."
          5. Next, enable the first radio button titled Add a Profile for a new domain.
          6. Add your url into the URL area.
          7. Click Finish.
          8. The next page is the important one. Look at the code that is provide and find your Google tracking code. Here is a example:
            Analytics Code
          9. Now, go to your website and log into Site Administration.
          10. Click on Site Controls
          11. Click on Site Preferences
          12. Enter in your Google Analytics Account number. It will be in this format - UA-xxxxxxx-x.
          13. Save
          14. That's it! Your reports should begin to populate after 24 hours.

          MORE RESOURCES FOR GOOGLE ANALYTICS

          Getting Started Guide – Google Analytics
          Quick Start Guide for Custom Reporting – Google Analytics
          How Do I Tag My Links? – Google Analytics
          Free Trial

          See how easy it is to build your church website!
          Start your 15-day free trial account

          MonMondayMarMarch1st2010 Why Add Highlights?
          byBryan Young Tagged User Experience (UX) 0 comments Add comment

          How Highlights improve the look and function of each page on your church website.


          Each page, news item, and event on your iMinistries website has five "slots" to insert highlights. Highlights are other pages, blog entries, news, events, or content that you select as a highlight when you create it. To maximize your ministry website's potential, it is important to fill each page with as many relevant highlights as you can.

          Look

          Although you may have heard that empty space is a good way to break up text on a page, allowing too much space can make your site look empty and unimportant. Each inch of space is valuable real estate--don't waste it by forgetting to add highlights.

          When creating a page and selecting it to be a highlight, add a thumbnail. Thumbnails provide you a chance to be make your site pop by breaking up text with images (people love images!).

          Be creative. Choose a theme for your thumbnails and run with it. Have all your thumbnails feature:
          • People from your ministry
          • A consistent color scheme
          • Christian imagery (a Christmas star, open Bibles, and empty tombs)
          • A similar look-and-feel
          • Or a mixture of all

          Free Trial

          We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

          Create Your Free Trial Account

          Function

          Highlights help your users find related information as they explore your website–content they might not otherwise have found. For example, on your About Us page, highlight your Contact Us page so visitors can easily navigate there to send you a comment or question. On an event that is located at your camp, highlight a page with camp directions and information. On a blog entry that hosts your sermon audio, highlight sermon notes for users to follow along.

          Using highlights as links to other content on your ministry website makes it easier to keep your menu clutter-free. Partnering highlights with hyperlinks, resource pages, and widgets keeps you from adding every page into your menu. Your users will thank you for this ease in navigation. Not necessarily in verbal (or e-mailed) praise, but definitely in repeat visits to your site.

          OTHER RESOURCES ON HIGHLIGHTS

          What Is A Highlight? – iMinistries Support Document
          Adding Highlights (Video) – iMinistries Support Video
          What is a Thumbnail? – iMinistries Support Document
          MonMondayFebFebruary15th2010 Your Church Media: Widgets
          byBryan Young Tagged New Features 0 comments Add comment

          What is a Widget?

          A widget is a “chunk” of HTML code which commands content to display on a page. The great thing about a widget is you don’t have to know anything about HTML or writing code to utilize it. You just plug in your information and the Web site embeds content for you.

          What Can I Embed?

          With widgets you can embed (click the links for examples):

          Blogs

          Post entries from any of your ministry website's blogs on any page.

          Blog entries posted on a website's homepage

          News and Events

          Add a widget to your homepage to display your website's latest news and events. Or add a widget to a page or blog entry listing a specific ministry's news and events.

          News and events embedded into a website's homepage

          Photo Galleries

          Show off your ministry website's photos on any page with a gallery slide show.

          Photo gallery embedded in a news item on our demo website

          Products

          Embed your site's products (CDs, T-shirts, DVDs, etc.) inside news items or blog entries.

          Products embedded in a blog entry on our demo website

          Flickr Slideshows

          Incorporate your Flickr photos, sets, and collections into your iMinistries website.

          Flickr slideshows embedded in a ministry website page

          Twitter Feeds

          Display your most recent tweets in an ad and show it site-wide. Or embed it in any page. You can limit the number of tweets shown and add a custom heading ("Pastor Dave's Tweets").

          Twitter feed embedded in an ad on a ministry website's homepage

          Interactive Google Maps

          Enter your ministry location's address to add a Google map on any page (About Us, Contact Us, Ministry Information). Users can zoom in and out and get directions to and from this location, making it easier for visitors to find you.

          Interactive Google map embedded into a ministry website's "Service Times & Directions" page

          YouTube and Vimeo Videos

          Gone are the days of pasting embed codes into your HTML editor. With widgets, just paste your ministry video's ID (found in your URL) and embed vidoes on any page. You control the size of your video, making it possible to embed them into ads.

          Vimeo videos embedded into a ministry website's "Videos" page

          MP3 Players

          Turn any page into a jukebox, a spot for your latest sermons, or a host for your new Podcast. Just upload your MP3 file through Content Administration and paste its URL into this widget and add anywhere.

          MP3s embedded into a ministry website page

          How do I use the Widget Feature on my iMinistries Site?

          You can embed widgets on any page that uses an Editor (news, events, blog entries, pages, ministry descriptions, ads, etc.). Here are the steps to adding a widget:
          1. Create or edit the desired page or item.
          2. Click on the widget button in the editor toolbar.
          3. Select the type of widget you want to embed.
          4. Fill in your information, choose your preferences, upload any files (MP3), and click Add.
          5. Save your page or item. To preview the widget, click on the green arrow next to the item in Administration.

          Free Trial

          We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

          Create Your Free Trial Account

          MORE INFORMATION ON WIDGETS

          "Web widget" – Wikipedia.org
          Widgets in Action – iMinistries.org
          MonMondayFebFebruary1st2010 Your Church Media: Video The modern website visitor is one with a short attention span. They want information, and they want it immediately. They want news, and they want it the second it occurs. And the less effort they have to put forth, the better.

          Video is a great medium for spreading information, giving updates, and sharing stories. It engages the viewer without requiring anything on their end but the ability to push "play" and watch. Video combines the power of images with the authority of audio.

          Embedding Video with YouTube and Vimeo

          The best way to add streaming video content to your website is by uploading it to to a video hosting site like YouTube or Vimeo and embedding it into your desired page. Each video posted on these sites displays an embedding code. By copying this code and pasting it onto your site, you can add video to any page.

          Even easier, you can add your video by using our Widget feature. Just edit or create your page, click the Widget button, type in your video's location, and add.

          YouTube or Vimeo?

          Even though YouTube is more popular, we suggest using Vimeo to host your ministry's videos. Why?
          • YouTube limits uploading videos 10 minutes or less (unless you pay extra). Vimeo only limits you in amount of Mb of video uploaded per week.
          • Vimeo allows you to choose the videos your video links to. YouTube gives you the option to turn off the links, but only on the embedded video. The video on YouTube still displays links to random videos (some may have inappropriate content).
          • Vimeo allows you to password protect your videos to limit its viewability.
          • With Vimeo, you can limit which sites can embed your videos, limiting them from being posted on other sites.
          • You can create "Channels" for your Vimeo videos for better organization.
          • Your Vimeo videos or channels can be grouped into a slide show or badge widget for easy access to your video library.

          Free Trial

          We believe the best way to describe our tools is for you to try them out yourself. We offer a 15-day free trial account which will give you a few days to use all of the features available to our paying clients. There's no risk and no obligation. Who knows, you might even enjoy the new control you have over your very own website.

          Create Your Free Trial Account

          MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ADDING VIDEO

          Vimeo Basics - Vimeo.com
          "Upload a Video" Tutorial - Vimeo.com
          YouTube Help Center - YouTube.com
          "Embedding Video" Tutorial - iMinistries Support Video
          MonMondayJanJanuary18th2010 Your Church Media: Podcasting In this communication age, it is important to utilize as many ways as possible to reach your audience. In a previous blog entry, we explained how to find your audience and your writing voice. Through Podcasting your sermons and lessons, you can use your actual voice to reach a wider audience.

          What Is a Podcast?

          Podcasting is a standardized way to distribute audio files to Internet users, for downloading and listening offline (through a program like iTunes) or listening from a host site online. Podcasting is done by placing files on a Web server and using an RSS feed to describe each file. On your iMinistries site, podcasting is simplified using the Blog functionality. A Podcast on your site is a blog entry with an audio file embedded within the entry. Since all blogs on your site automatically offer an RSS feed, your blog becomes a Podcast when you add audio files to the entry.

          This all sounds more complicated than it really is. On an iMinistries site, all you have to do is create a blog, add entries, and upload your audio file with each entry.

          Creating a Podcast

          1. Create a Blog (see How to Create a Blog)
          2. Create a Blog Entry
          3. Upload an mp3 file as an enclosure by browsing to the file on your computer.
          4. Visit the blog page (you can use the open  to get to the blog page when you are on the actual Blog Entry page).
          5. Locate and click the RSS Feed link. It looks like a larger version of this : .
            If you don't see it on your page, you haven't add the RSS Feed panel to your Blog.
          6. Your browser should show some XML code (language used to communicate your Podcast). Find the URL in the address bar of your browser. This is the address of your Podcast.
          After adding your audio file to a blog entry, you can add your sermon or lesson to the iTunes directory to reach even more people. Those visiting the iTunes Store can search and download your Podcast without visiting your site.

          Adding Your Podcast to iTunes Podcast Directory

          1. If you have iTunes installed, you may simply follow this link and skip to step 5.
          2. Open iTunes (if you do not have it installed already, visit Apple's website for a free download)
          3. Visit iTunes Music Store
          4. Click Podcasts
          5. Click Submit a Podcast
          6. Paste your the address of your podcast into the box and follow all the steps

          MORE INFO/HELP ON PODCASTING

          How Do I Create A Podcast? - iMinistries Help System
          Making a Podcast - Apple.com
          FAQs: For Podcast Makers - Apple.com
          MonMondayDecDecember21st2009 Better Web Writing, Part 3: I Like Your Style Now that you have found your voice and learned how to beautify your text, it's important to set some rules for your content. You wouldn't teach your child to speak, dress them in their Sunday best, and then let them run amok. You shouldn't do the same to your content.

          Creating rules for yourself (and others who create content) helps to guide your content in the right direction. Like bumpers on a bowling lane, content rules help keep you from throwing gutter balls. Take the steps below to set up your guidelines.

          Incorporate links into the text.

          Avoid making links out of just "click here." Instead, build the links into a sentence. So, if I wanted you to check out a previous blog entry, I would add a link to the underlined text in this sentence.

          Be consistent.

          Pick a style and go with it. Not only will this promote a clean, uniform feel on your site, but it also improves its look.

          There are many established styles (AP, Chicago, MLA, APA). But you don't have to use one of these. You can create your own by making stylistic choices and utilizing that style throughout your content. What will you capitalize or abbreviate? What will you call reoccurring events? What will you name your ministries?
          Here are a few decisions to get you started:
          • 9:00 A.M. or 9 a.m. or 9am?
          • Colorado or Colo. or CO?
          • October 25 or Oct. 25th
          • 5th Graders or fifth grade students?
          • Children's Ministry: Jesus and Me or Kid's Club?
          • small groups or Small Groups?
          • address your visitors as "loved ones" or "friends"?
          • New Believers Class or First Steps or Theology 101?

          Avoid Churchisms.

          Keep your articles free of overused, ambiguous words and phrases that have become like Christian jargon. Think of something fresh that visitors, churched and un-churched, easily understand. A good rule of thumb to use: if you have to explain it, get rid of it.
          Start by purging your content of the following:
          • "food, friends, and fellowship"
          • "come alongside"
          • "lift up" as "in prayer" or "in song"
          • "God put it on my heart"
          • big theological words like: "dispensationalism," "parousia," and "transubstantiation"

          SOURCES FOR THIS BLOG/FURTHER READING ON WRITING FOR THE WEB

          The 10 Commandments of Internet Writing: Web Pro News
          Better Writing for the Internet: Ask Oxford
          50 Free Resources That Will Improve Your Writing Skills: Smashing Magazine
          Copywriting 101: Copyblogger
          MonMondayDecDecember7th2009 Better Web Writing, Part 2: Words As Pictures

          Writing Compelling Content for Your Church Website.

          There's a saying that "pictures are worth a thousand words." On the Web, because attention spans are so brief and space is so important, words have to be pictures. Confused? Use the advice below to start crafting your text into word-pictures.

          Care how it looks.

          Web content is a visual medium. Visitors like text that looks good on the page. If a page is not attractive, why would someone stay on that page, let alone read its content? If the text is distracting, visitors move on without reading what you have to say.

          Use white space to break up chunks of text to allow the reader to scan the content. Use lists, bullet points, and tables to organize your blocks of text. Use bold and italics to make important words, phrases, and headings stand out. Limit the use of all caps and exclamation points. Include images whenever possible.
          Instead of this...

          Help us serve those in our community by providing for their needs and DONATE TO OUR FOOD PANTRY!!
          Our current needs include: cereal, instant potatoes, canned vegetables, baby formula, and pasta.
          Please help us by dropping off your boxes or bags of NON-PERISHABLE foods in the Food Pantry bins in the lobby!

          Do this...

          Help us serve those in our community by providing for their needs. Donate to our Food Pantry.

          Our current needs include:
          • cereal
          • instant potatoes
          • canned vegetables
          • baby formula
          • pasta

          Drop off your boxes or bags of non-perishable foods in the Food Pantry bins in the lobby.

          Shorter the better.

          Use short, choppy sentences. Chunk these sentences together into brief paragraphs of 2-3 sentences so as not to intimidate the reader with long blocks of text.

          Like a newspaper article, answer all the important questions at the beginning (who, what, when, where, why, and how) and explain in more detail as the article continues. Cut out unnecessary information, adjectives, and adverbs. Adhere to the "Keep it Simple" attitude.
          Example of short and choppy:

          Calvary Baptist Student Ministries:

          Impact is our ministry for students in High School. Impact students are committed to a single purpose: living for the glory of God. They meet three times a month in home groups and at a large group meeting twice per month.

          Xtreme for Christ
          is our ministry for students in Junior High. They meet each Thursday at 7:00 P.M. in the Youth Room. Each week is filled with small discussion groups, worship, and hang out time.

          Jesus And Me (JAM) is our Children's Ministry. JAM meets every Sunday morning and evening during our main worship services. Each child is given a Bible-based lesson, activity, and memory verse every week.
          MonMondayNovNovember23rd2009 Better Web Writing, Part 1: Finding Your Voice

          Writing Compelling Content for Your Church Website.

          Visitors will come to your church website because of flashy imagery, but they'll keep coming back for fresh, well written content. Writing for the Web is different than writing for other mediums. Web visitors have shorter attention spans than any other medium, so it is important to know how to write to keep their attention as long as possible and keep them coming back for more.

          Over the next several blogs, we will give you tips for improving your Web writing. The first step to becoming a better Web writer is finding and developing your writing "voice." We've used the analogy in a previous blog entry that your church website is like a conversation. Your voice, like your speaking voice, is the tone projected by the words you use and how you use them.

          Here are three keys to developing your voice:


          Know your audience.


          Before you begin crafting the words directed toward your website users, it is important to understand their expectations and wants so you can meet them.

          Your ministry visitors want to feel in touch with your pastor and want to sense being cared for by staff members from the minute they walk in the door. They want to interact with you and not feel like a number sitting alone in a pew. You want them to feel at home, too, so when you greet these visitors to your ministry, you smile, welcome them, and give them your undivided attention. Your writing voice should do exactly the same thing.


          Be friendly.


          Your tone has the power to invite people in or turn people away. Use informal language. Say "we" and "you" instead of "our congregation" or "ministry leaders" to make yourself more relatable. Use your page as a handshake and your text as a "welcome."

          Example of friendly voice:

          If you are interested in becoming a member of Calvary Baptist, we invite you to attend Meet the Pastors.

          Meet the Pastors is a great first step towards becoming involved at Calvary. If you are investigating or have recently decided to make Calvary your church home, then we welcome you to join us at Meet the Pastors.

          Please register for Meet the Pastors today. We would love to see you there!


          Be firm and use active voice.


          Use active voice when writing news articles or blogs to energize the content and involve the reader. Use strong commands when writing ad content to promote action. Use the present tense and confident words to give your text authority.

          Example of firm, active voice using present tense:
          Join us at one of our two Sunday services. We meet at 9:30 A.M. and 7:00 P.M. each week. We invite you to engage in Christ-centered worship and an application-filled study of God’s Word with us.

          Visit our "What To Expect" page to find out more about our services and our beliefs. If you have a question or comment, fill out a Contact Us form.


          SOURCES FOR THIS BLOG/FURTHER READING ON WRITING FOR THE WEB


          The 10 Commandments of Internet Writing: Web Pro News

          MonMondayNovNovember9th2009 Improving Search Results, Chapter 3: Directories and Social Media
          byBryan Young Tagged Social Media 0 comments Add comment

          Make Your Ministry Website More Visible By Using Directories and Social Media Websites.

          Now that you have conquered Google by increasing your PageRank, and other search engines by adding Meta Tags, you can still improve your search engine results. By adding your site to directories and social sites, you can improve your church website’s credibility which will move your site up the chain of search results.

          Improving Search Ranking

          Directories

          Directories are man-made lists of websites. Each site that is added to a directory is evaluated and deemed one of high quality. So being added to one or more of these directories is seen by search engines as a thumbs up from peers, which influences the order in which they list sites in query results.

          Three directories you should add your site to:
          • DMOZ
          • Yahoo Directory
          • ZoomInfo
          DMOZ
          A volunteer-run directory hosted by Mozilla, only sites with quality content will get listed here. New sites are less likely, and since it is managed by volunteers, it can take time to get added. DMOZ is the largest human-edited directory of the Web, so if you aren't listed here, search engines will be given a reason not to list your site at the top of results. Add your site to DMOZ.

          Yahoo Directory

          Yahoo's Directory unfortunately is not free, it costs you $299 per year. But its size and name recognition might make it worth your while if you care deeply about improving your search results. Add your site to Yahoo Directory.

          ZoomInfo

          This directory and search engine is geared more toward businesses, but allows you to create an informative profile. You can add a searchable profile for your ministry and link to your website. ZoomInfo has profiles on more than 37 million people and 3.5 million companies, so it can be valuable to have on your site's "resume." Create a profile on ZoomInfo.

          Social Networking and Media Sites

          These sites can be used to drive more traffic to your website. More traffic means more respect from search engines and a better search ranking.

          Three social networking and media sites you should add your site (and its content) to:
          • Facebook
          • Del.icio.us
          • Digg
          Facebook
          We all know that Facebook is great for keeping in touch with old friends from the past, but it can also help you increase your Web traffic and boost your search engine results. You can create a free group and allow people to become a "fan" of your ministry. You can also link to your website and post news and event updates (which you can link to news and events on your site) to drive more visitors to your site. We thought that we should take our own advice and recently created a group. If you are an existing client or are thinking about becoming one, why not join the iMinistries Facebook Group?

          Del.icio.us
          If you create compelling content on your site, your users will share it with others on this web-based bookmarking site (learn more about Del.icio.us here). The best avenue for creating the kind of constantly changing content people share is in our blog feature. Here you can discuss your weekly sermons more in-depth, and allow your visitors to add comments. You can share your insights on relevant topics or events. If you haven't started a blog, visit this help file to find out how you can do so today.  

          Digg
          Digg is a site that allows you or your visitors to submit and rate articles. Each article can receive diggs, or votes, from Digg.com users. More diggs means articles move closer and closer to the Digg homepage or its topic homepages. If you or visitors to your site submit articles and they are compelling enough to become popular, this could mean increased traffic to your site--and we now know that high-traffic sites get listed higher on search results. To submit articles, you must first create a free account.

          Sources For This Blog and Further Reading on Directories and Social Media

          Man Still Better Than Machine for Some Things - HubSpot
          MonMondayOctOctober26th2009 Improving Search Results, Chapter 2: Utilizing Meta Tags

          Make Your Ministry Website More Visible With Meta Tags

          What are Meta Tags?

          Meta Tags are keywords and phrases hidden in the background of your church website to describe your page to search engines. These tags help them determine if your site is best for a search query. They also appear as the title and description of your site in the results of those search queries.


          If you have not added Meta tags to your site, search engines will use the first lines of your page as your description, so you can see why Meta tags are an important tool to ensure that users find you. Meta tags give you control over the first impression you present to searchers.

          For example, Calvary Church and Grace Bible are two ministries in suburban Boston. Calvary has added Meta title and description tags to their site. Grace Bible has not, so the search engine has grabbed its menu bar as its description. Below are the search results for “Bible church in Boston suburbs”:
          Calvary Church - Welcome
          Calvary is a Bible-believing church that has faithfully served the Boston suburbs since 1974. Calvary offers diverse ministry for men, women, children, and students…

          Grace Bible – Home – Grace Bible Church
          Home – Ministries – Contact Us – FAQ – info@gracebible.net 123 Main St., Suburbs, MA 12345…
          You can see how these small tags can make a big impression on search engine users. Calvary Church’s website jumps out as more relevant, simply because they added a brief summary of their ministry as a Meta Tag.

          What Content Should I use in a Meta Tag?

          Concentrate on creating three types of Meta Tags, using the analogy of a book:
          • Title (book title): Summarize your ministry in a few short words. Obviously, you ministry name should come first. But adding two or three words after the ministry…
          • Description (back cover summary): In a few short sentences, describe your ministry. This description will be displayed under your site's title in search results (like above) and is often called a "snippet." To read more about how to create more effective snippets, check out this article from Google.
          • Keywords (subject, genre, author): List words and phrases that relate to your ministry. Like your location, your senior pastor or founder’s name, and even “church.” Google has decided to help you out with keyword development. Their Keyword Tool allows you to generate suggested keywords by entering in your website's URL.

          How can I add Meta Tags to My iMinistries site?

          Adding a Meta Tag to your iMinistries site is easy. Just follow these steps:
          1. Navigate to your Site Administration.
          2. In your Site Controls, select Site Preferences.
          3. On the General tab, click [Meta Tag Administration]
          4. Click Add Tag
          5. Name your tag (ex. “Description”), fill in the Content field, and save.
          You can also add Meta Tags to individual pages. When you edit any page, event, news article, or other content, navigate to its SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tag. Add your descriptions and keywords in the fields provided.
          MonMondayOctOctober12th2009 Improving Search Results, Chapter 1: The Google Monster
          byBryan Young Tagged Church Technology 0 comments Add comment

          Make Your Site More Visible on Google Search Results By Improving Your PageRank.

          How Does Google Determine Search Ranking?

          Many new visitors to your church website find you through search engines. Whether they type in generic terms like “churches in downtown Louisville” or your exact ministry name, you want your website to be the first in lists of search results. To make this a reality, you should know about search engine optimization (SEO).

          Dominate among search engines is Google who utilizes its own system for the order of how websites are listed in search results. Their PageRank formula is a important part of that system.

          Simplified, the formula Google uses to determine whether your ministry is the first site listed when someone enters in a search query that relates to you is this:
          Search Ranking = Relevance x PageRank
          Relevance
          To determine your site’s Relevance, Google looks at your site’s content and compares it with other sites similar to yours, in both quality and quantity. So, for example, if another “church in downtown Louisville” uses those words and phrases less than you do on your site, your Relevance is likely to be higher. If the title of your site’s pages all include your name and someone searches that name, your Relevance will be higher than other sites.

          PageRank
          Google assigns a number from 0-10 (10 being best) to each website to measure its credibility and overall quality. This number is determined primarily by how many other websites link to your site, with links from sites with higher PageRanks counted as much more significant because their links are more valuable. Think of it this way, a job reference from the President carries much more weight than one from the lunch lady.

          Here is a summary of PageRanks and the sites that make them up, from HubSpot.com:
          0-1: New sites; sites with not many other sites linking to it
          2-3:  Sites with minimal links
          4-5:  Popular sites with a fair amount of other sites linking to it
          6:  Very popular sites that have hundreds of links, many of them quality links
          7-10:  Usually media brands (NYTimes.com), big companies, or A-list blogs.
          To find out your PageRank, use one of the free tools below:
          PageRank Checker
          WebSiteGrader

          How to Bump Up Your Google Search Ranking

          Here are a few easy steps you can take you improving your PageRank:
          1. Spell-check the content on your site. Visitors can't find you if you spell Calvary Church “Cavalry Chruch.”
          2. Include words that people might enter in their searches in your content. If your ministry is in Louisville, make sure it says so on your site.
          3. Make sure each page on your site has a title in the top toolbar.
          4. If you have partner ministries, include a page on your site where you link to their sites, and encourage them to do the same. The more sites you can get linking to you, the better.
          5. Be picky about who you link to. Only link to quality sites who update their content regularly.
          6. Update your home page and other pages constantly with fresh content, news items, and events. Use our Widgets Feature to do the work for you.
          7. Sign up for Google Analytics and use it. Using this free tool will let you see traffic to your site and give you insights on how to improve your content.
          8. Link to other content on your site using hyperlinks. In the text of a news item, link to an event so visitors can register. In a blog, link to a photo gallery. These links help balance your PageRank over your whole site.
          9. Take pride in the quality of your content. Avoid duplicate pages and information. Make text clear and brief.
          10. When you link to other pages or sites, use keywords. Instead of writing "click here" and making it a hyperlink, use text that relates to the item you are linking to, like "All Church Picnic Registration."

          Sources for This Blog and Further Reading on SEO

          The Importance of Google PageRank - HubSpot.com
          12 Things to Do to Improve Your Site's Google Page Ranking - Stason.org
          MonMondaySepSeptember28th2009 Make Your Location Map Interactive
          byBryan Young Tagged New Features 0 comments Add comment

          Use the Google Map Widget to Embed an Interactive Map on Your Church Website

          To make it easier for your church website users to visit your ministry in person, consider embedding a map, like the one below, from Google in your About Us section.


          To make a map like what you see above, follow these steps:
          1. Edit or create a news item, page, or event.
          2. Select the Widget button from the Editor's toolbar.

          3. Click on the Google Map link to expand the feature.
          4. Enter in your location's address, the size you want your map, and your desired zoom level and Add.

          5. Change the status of your page to Published and Save.
          6. Bask in your new found knowledge as well as how you now are providing an interactive map to the users of your church website!
          After you save your changes, navigate to your new page and insure you like what you see. If you would like for it to appear differently, go back through the steps that you have just taken and adjust the map accordingly. When users of your website visit this page, they can interact with the map getting very detailed directions.

          MonMondaySepSeptember14th2009 Bounce Rate and How to Reduce It

          What is Bounce Rate?

          A bounce occurs when a person visits your church website and leaves without visiting any other pages on your site. This is the equivalent to a visitor attending your church and then leaving after they hear your opening prayer. The problem with this is obvious.

          Bounce Rate is a term used in website traffic analysis. It represents the percentage of visitors to a site who "bounce" away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the same site. The formula used to calculate bounce rate is: Bounce Rate = Total Number of Visits Viewing One Page ÷ Total Number of Visits. 

          Just as you want church visitors to stay longer than the first 10 minutes of your service, you want your website visitors to stay on your site long enough to learn about who you are as well as get connected to your ministry. Lowering your Bounce Rate is the key to achieving that goal.

          A high Bounce Rate from any page means that your site's pages don’t give visitors any reason to stay, so making your homepage and other pages as relevant as possible to your visitors is crucial.

          Ways to Reduce Bounce Rate and Keep Visitors on Your Site

          1. Streamline Your Menu
          2. Your menu is the most important tool to navigate your site. Visitors want to find information quickly and easily, so don't bog down your menu with too many choices. Limit your main menu categories to the 6-7 most important, and only include relevant pages (five or less) as sub-categories.

            Use the example menu below as a good rule of thumb:

            • Home
            • About Us
              • Our History
              • Our Mission
              • What We Believe
              • Weekend Services
              • Staff
            • Ministries
              • Men's Ministry
              • Women's Ministry
              • Student Ministry
              • Children's Ministry
              • Small Groups
            • Media
              • Sermons
              • Videos
            • Contact Us
            • My Church

            In a previous blog entry entitled, "Spring Cleaning for your Website," we talked about simplifying a site's menu by combining items and making it easier to navigate by using breadcrumbs--all great advice for helping your users find information.

          3. Add Highlights with Thumbnails
          4. On the sidebar or footer of each of your site's pages, news items, events, and other items is a space to include up to five highlights--links to other content on your site. Adding highlights that relate to the content on each page is an easy way to entice users to explore your website. For example, on the home page, you might include highlights for your "Weekend Services" page, "This Week's Sermon" blog, "Meet the Pastors" event, and "Our Mission" page. (See this help file to learn more about highlights.)

            Include a thumbnail with your highlight to make it "pop" off the page. Read this help file to find out how to add thumbnails to your items.

          5. Add Recent News or Events with Smart Tags
          6. With Smart Tags, you can embed content from your site inside other content. To let your visitors see the latest happenings in your ministry, use Smart Tags to display the most recently added news and upcoming events. Here is an example of a page with events embedded within it.

            You can also embed recent blog entries inside of other pages--so on your senior pastor's staff page, you can include the latest entries from his blog and connect with visitors on a more relational level.

            Learn more about Smart Tags by clicking here.

          7. Create Ads Which Link to Other Pages/Site Features
          8. Ads on your site act to promote the content within. Use flashy images and compelling text to advertise other pages, blogs, photo galleries, or media.

            Have a Podcast of your weekly sermon series? Create and ad which links to it and display it on your home page. Don't make visitors hunt for your features. Lead them there. Click here to learn how to create an ad.

          9. Sign Up for Google Analytics
          10. Utilizing free Google Analytics is an important step in understanding how your site traffic works. Analytics allows you to chart your Bounce Rate on individual pages or site-wide, creates reports that show your hits per day, month, or the change over the course of a year, and tracks clicks on individual links or ads. And that's only the beginning.

            Once you plug your Google Analytics number into your iMinistries website, check out your bounce rates on this page. To learn more about statistics like this and how to use them, read this help file on adding your Google Analytics number to your iMinistries website.

          Sources for This Blog and More Reading on Bounce Rates

          What does Bounce Rate Mean? - Google Analytics
          MonMondaySepSeptember7th2009 About Us: Beginning The Conversation

          Use Your About Us Page to Introduce Yourself to Visitors

          When you first meet someone, you both ask questions to begin your interaction.

          What do you do? Where are you from? What do you like to do?



          The answers to these initial ice breakers often dictate how the exchange continues. If you both share common interests or personality traits, you could find yourself in a deep conversation. If not, it could end up just a brief chat.

          When people visit your church website for the first time, they are seeking similar information about your ministry. They should be able to find these answers immediately, and all in one place, or the “conversation” may end before it begins. This is why a well thought out About Us section is vital to an effective website.

          Next to the homepage, the About Us section of your website is the most visited by new users. It is more than just a place to list your history or address, but its goal should be to connect with visitors by taking steps to building a relationship with them.

          The three main questions that should be answered in this section are:

          • Who are you?
          • What do you do?
          • Why should I trust you?
          About Us should be offered in your menu and can list several pages as submenu items. Below are pages that you can include within your About Us section:
          • Ministry History
          • Basic Ministry Information
          • Ministry List/What You Offer
          • Beliefs/Values
          • Contact Information
          • Staff
          • Extension Ministries/Partners
          • Employment Opportunities
          • Ministry Location, Directions, and Maps
          • Frequently Asked Questions

          The more information you provide, the more trust you earn from visitors, the more credibility you give to your ministry, and the better likelihood of engaging in a meaningful conversation.

          Blog Sources/Further Reading

          http://www.onextrapixel.com/2009/07/31/the-essence-of-about-us-page-with-12-captivating-showcases/
          http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/07/01/best-practices-for-effective-design-of-about-us-pages/
          http://www.useit.com/homepageusability/guidelines.html

          Free Trial

          See how easy it is to build your church website!
          Start your 15-day free trial account,

          MonMondayAugAugust24th2009 Using Your Church Website to Promote Your Brand
          byBryan Young Tagged Church Design 0 comments Add comment

          Bad News, Good News

          Bad news: The amount of time spent by visitors on your church website can be measured in a few short minutes. And because of the modern Web-surfer's short attention span, it has become critical for ministries to focus more on building and maintaining a brand to keep visitors on and returning to your website.

          Good news: iMinistries' Skin feature makes developing and maintaining a brand on your website a few easy clicks away.

          To a ministry or church, branding can seem overwhelming or even unnecessary. But think of it in these terms: developing and maintaining a brand can help you determine your mission and is a strategy to communicate what you are and what you stand for.

          Your website is often your bridge to prospective attendees, volunteers, or donors and is your best way to broadcast your vision and how you go about achieving it.

          You want people to know what you're all about from the moment they see your homepage and to remember your site long after they’ve left. To accomplish this, you have to first establish a brand identity.

          Establishing Brand Identity on Your Website

          1. Logo and Colors
          Think of your ministry’s focus. Think of the words, phrases, visuals, and colors to help convey this theme. Create or use your existing logo as a symbol for your ministry's mission.

          Keep these colors and themes in mind when selecting an iMinistries skin (our free skins can be found here) or when developing a custom skin for your site.



          New Life Covenant Ministries wanted to invoke the theme of growing in Christ. To do this, they used earth tones and greenery images throughout their site.

          2. Logo Use: Size and Position
          Now that you have a logo to represent your ministry, it should be the first thing users see when they visit your homepage. Display the logo large and prominent, usually in the top left corner of your homepage and continue that pattern on each page of your site.

          With iMinistries' Skin feature, the majority of the work is already done for you. You can add your own header, and inside of it you can place your logo so that it appears on each page.



          Harvest Bible Chapel created a Header with their logo and including a photo of their campus pastors on their respective campus websites.

          3. Consistency

          Use your logo, colors, and visuals to envelop your site with your mission. Use the same fonts, graphics, relative positions, and proportions for each web page on your site. A uniform navigation scheme coupled with a good color scheme can also help reinforce your brand image.
          Pick a style and go with it. Be consistent in your content voice and style.

          The use of Headers, Ads, and Thumbnails can help to achieve stylistic consistency. All of these features are included when you choose iMinistries for your website needs.



          OneVerse, an association of artists committed to Bible translation, displayed their logo in Headers, bright greens and blues and decorative graphics in their page bodies, and colorful Thumbnail photos of their artists across each of their website's pages. By using a custom or free iMinistries skin, achieving uniformity and consistency is easy.

          Sources for this Article/Other Resources Regarding Branding:

          The Significance of Establishing a Prominent Brand Identity for Your Website: OneExtraPixel
          Find Your Church's Brand Identity: Church Solutions
          Discovering Your Brand: Church Relevance